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New DoD Policy for PCS Moves: Lithium Batteries

Beginning on May 15, 2023, the Department of Defense imposes limitations on transporting devices containing lithium batteries in household goods shipments. Some lithium batteries are acceptable for household goods moves, and some are not, as we’ll examine below.

DoD Policy for Transporting Lithium Batteries in Household Goods Shipments

Are lithium batteries dangerous? The Department of Transportation’s official site has this to say on the subject:

“The risks posed by lithium cells and batteries are generally a function of type, size, and chemistry…Unlike standard alkaline batteries, most lithium batteries manufactured today contain a flammable electrolyte and have an incredibly high energy density. They can overheat and ignite under certain conditions, such as a short circuit or improper design or assembly.”

That is one reason you may have noticed greater scrutiny on battery-operated devices when going through the security line at the airport.

But the danger isn’t restricted to air travel; these batteries may represent a fire hazard and contractors who pack and ship household goods operate with a set of DoD guidelines as to what can be boxed up and what cannot.

New DoD Policy For Shipping Lithium Batteries During PCS Moves

If you have a PCS move coming after May 15, 2023, identify all your devices that may contain lithium batteries. Note the size of your batteries and discuss them with your movers.

You can ship electronics without the batteries, or you may be required to put these items into storage instead of packing them.

Related: Prepare for Your First PCS Move

Lithium Battery Restrictions: Based on Size and Type

The most common types of batteries include lithium-ion and lithium-metal varieties. You’ll find lithium-ion batteries in:

  • Cellphones
  • Power tools
  • Roombas and related devices
  • Video cameras
  • E-bikes

Lithium Metal batteries may be found in:

  • Remote controls
  • Watches
  • Smoke detectors
  • Handheld games

Which Batteries Are Acceptable to Ship in My Household Goods?

Starting May 15, 2023, you MAY SHIP the following in your household goods unless otherwise instructed by the local authority:

  • Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries at 100 watt-hours or less (20 watt-hours or less per lithium-ion cell)
  • Lithium metal batteries containing two grams or less of lithium content (one gram or less per lithium metal cell)
  • Either type up to that size limit may be shipped in unaccompanied baggage and/or household goods.

Any battery size in either category that exceeds the numbers given above cannot be shipped in your unaccompanied baggage or household goods. The limit is PER BATTERY and not a cumulative limit for all batteries.

Some overseas duty locations are more directly affected by these restrictions than others. You are allowed to possess these batteries; they themselves are not banned. But you may not SHIP batteries larger than the specification listed above.

Related: PCS Moves and Your Personal Property

How do I Tell if My Batteries are Lithium or Not?

Battery makers typically include a designator on the battery to show what kind it is. Look for the “LI” symbol on a battery, or check online using the make and model number of the battery.

If you have difficulty determining whether your battery or batteries are lithium, keep in mind that your mover must make a judgment call to stay within regulations.

It is entirely possible that any doubt over the nature of a device or battery may result in that item being left out of the boxes for household goods or unaccompanied baggage. When in doubt, expect the movers to reject the item.

If you were considering long-term, non-temporary storage, remember that any such arrangement paid for or compensated by the federal government will have similar restrictions on lithium batteries.


About the author


Editor-in-Chief Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter/editor for Air Force Television News and the Pentagon Channel. His freelance work includes contract work for Motorola, VALoans.com, and Credit Karma. He is co-founder of Dim Art House in Springfield, Illinois, and spends his non-writing time as an abstract painter, independent publisher, and occasional filmmaker.