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Lithium batteries are everywhere. They power our favourite devices (phones, tablets, laptops, etc.) and beyond (electric cars, medical equipment, power tools, etc.). As demand for these efficient power sources has increased, so has the need to transport them. Lithium batteries fall into two categories, lithium-ion batteries and lithium-metal batteries. Lithium-ion batteries are re-chargeable and high energy density, but do not contain metallic lithium. Lithium-metal batteries are usually non-rechargeable but feature a higher energy density than regular batteries. Transport Canada recently amended the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Regulations (“TDGR“). The Amendments came into force on June 1, 2016. Companies engaged in transporting lithium batteries should be aware of the following key changes to the TDGR:

  • transporting lithium-ion batteries as cargo on passenger aircraft is now banned under the TDGR; and
  • new security rules for transporting lithium batteries were introduced.

Transport Ban Continues

The ban on transporting lithium-ion batteries as cargo on passenger aircraft is now legislated within the TDGR. Lithium-ion batteries or lithium-metal batteries can be shipped on cargo-only aircraft provided certain conditions are met, or through ground transportation. The ban was first introduced by Protective Direction No. 35 (issued by Transport Canada on March 22, 2016). Protective Direction No. 35 has been replaced by the new provisions of the TDGR.

The Amendments do not impact the transportation of lithium-ion batteries already installed in consumer products, devices or equipment. The ban only applies to batteries when shipped on their own. Passengers and crew may continue to carry spare lithium batteries for electronic devices in their carry-on baggage provided certain requirements are met. Additionally, baggage loaded into the passenger aircraft’s cargo compartment is not considered cargo, and therefore, is not subject to the prohibition.

New Security Rules

As a result of the Amendments, the TDGR now reference the Packing Instructions issued by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) – a specialized agency of the United Nations. The Packing Instructions were recently made more strict by the ICAO and include the following requirements:

  • lithium-ion batteries may not be transported at a state of charge exceeding 30% of their rated capacity; and
  • limits apply on the number of packages of lithium-ion or lithium-metal batteries for certain consignments.

We will continue to monitor any further legislative changes concerning transporting lithium batteries.


Jonathan Cocker heads Baker McKenzie’s Environment & Environmental Markets Practice Group in Toronto, where he also serves as chair of the Pro Bono Committee. He authored the Global Climate Change Law Guide, and has worked with the Management Board Secretariat of the Government of Ontario. Mr. Cocker has represented a wide range of clients before various administrative boards, the Superior Court of Justice and the Federal Court of Canada, among others.