Analyst Insight: The electric vehicle market continues to grow, bringing with it complex supply chain challenges associated with transporting the large-format lithium-ion batteries that power EVs. With the vast majority of automakers selling or unveiling EVs, every organization in the automotive industry — from the automakers themselves to the corner repair shop — needs a plan for large-format lithium-ion battery transport.
The ongoing transport of new, end-of-life and damaged large-format batteries through the supply chain can be a complicated and highly regulated endeavor. Why is it so challenging? To begin, EV batteries are big, powerful, bulky and, if damaged, can be unstable. Their weight can exceed 400 kilograms. This makes packaging, handling and transporting complicated.
Lithium-ion batteries are also fully regulated Class 9 dangerous goods (DG), with strict regulations around how they’re packaged and shipped. They’re also prone to “thermal runaway,” which results in a ballistic reaction triggering an immediate fire.
The transportation of lithium batteries requires an understanding of complex hazmat shipping regulations and coordination with many supply chain partners, including manufacturers, distributors, logistics providers, recyclers and carriers. Whether managing large recalls or the daily transport of smaller battery modules, organizations must proactively plan to handle these complex, highly regulated goods safely and compliantly. This plan should include:
Knowing your batteries and the regulations. Many factors impact how goods are packaged and shipped. Consider the battery’s dimensions, weight distribution, power capacity and status. You must follow both transportation regulations and possible hazardous waste regulations simultaneously. That requires being aware of the rules that govern transport (especially any shipping restrictions), including any variations between country or transportation mode and any carrier or company-specific rules, and ensuring you have the proper processes and infrastructure in place to maintain compliance across the supply chain.
Having proper packaging ready to go. Unlike most automotive parts, large-format lithium batteries require specific regulated packaging that often needs to be custom-made to a specific battery. This specialized packaging must meet all UN packaging regulations, comply with hazmat and hazardous waste shipping regulations, and be able to handle the size and weight of the battery.
Establishing strong partnerships. Most large-format lithium battery transportation involves multiple parties executing various stages of the journey. For the operation to be completed safely and on schedule, there must be seamless communication at all times.
Properly training employees and partners. All parties involved in the transport of EV batteries must receive proper training, not only to comply with hazmat training mandates but also to prepare them to do their jobs safely and efficiently. This training is country and mode of transport specific, and cannot be overlooked.
EV automakers currently have plans in place for transporting large-format lithium-ion batteries. Unfortunately, recalls are unplanned and companies across the supply chain aren’t typically ready for them, which can have costly and dangerous results. With large-format lithium batteries, it’s essential to have a plan in place to deal with potential issues before they become real problems.
Outlook: With the number of EVs on the road expected to reach 39.2 million by 2030, it becomes increasingly critical for companies to understand and manage lithium battery transport. From large-scale recalls to the daily transportation of smaller battery modules, proper packaging, training and shipping will require resources that some organizations lack. Automotive companies must proactively take steps to ensure the safe and compliant shipment of lithium-ion batteries before they become a problem and impact their business.
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