UN model regulations
Transportation of dangerous goods
Global safety standards for the transportation of dangerous goods are developed by an expert committee of the United Nations Economic and Social Council. These “Model Regulations of the United Nations for the Transportation of Dangerous Goods” constitute the foundation of dangerous goods law, since most of the international dangerous goods law agreements are based on them. They include recommendations for all countries in the world and are aimed at governments and international organisations that are responsible for the safe transportation of dangerous goods.
A United Nations expert committee regularly compiles a comprehensive list of all dangerous substances and goods. UN numbers (also called substance numbers) are assigned to the respective dangerous goods. These four-digit code numbers describe the transported material that poses a hazard. They are not only issued for individual chemical compounds, but also for substance groups and other goods with hazard potential. This ensures quick identification and the initiation of the right measures in case of an incident.
Classification of lithium batteries
For the classification of lithium batteries and cells as dangerous goods, the relevant UN regulations are currently found under the UN numbers 3090 and 3091 as well as 3480 and 3481:
- UN number 3090: lithium-metal batteries (including lithium alloy batteries)
- UN number 3091: lithium-metal batteries in equipment or lithium-metal batteries packaged with equipment (including lithium alloy batteries)
- UN number 3480: lithium-ion batteries (including lithium-ion-polymer batteries)
- UN number 3481: lithium-ion batteries in equipment or lithium-ion batteries packaged with equipment (including lithium-ion-polymer batteries)
(Excerpt – UN manual of the tests and criteria, subsection 38.3)
There are two main types of lithium batteries, both with very high energy values:
Lithium-ion batteries are rechargeable
- Also called “secondary lithium batteries”.
- These batteries are often found in electronics such a mobile phones and laptops.
Lithium-metal batteries are generally not rechargeable
- Also called “primary lithium batteries”.