I am planning a trip across the states to my friend, and he asked me to bring him a jump starter. So I did some research on whether you can take a jump starter on a plane or not and found some very interesting regulations regarding carrying lithium-ion batteries on a plane.
You can bring any jump starter (or any lithium-ion device) as long as the battery capacity does not exceed 100 Wh. This includes laptops, mobile phones, power-banks, jump starters or any portable lithium-ion battery. And if your power bank or jump starter is from 100Wh to 160Wh, then you need to get an approval from the airline to carry it with you.
What portable devices or separate batteries are allowed on the plane?
Almost all of the consumer electronic devices (like laptops, power banks, and smartphones) are designed in such a way that they can be carried with you on the plane without breaking any regulations.
Carrying separate batteries and power banks are allowed if they are under 100 Wh each. But if your battery is more than 100 Wh, then you have to talk to the airline to see if they allow you to carry it on the plane. More about this can be found on the TSA website.
Why are lithium-ion batteries so popular?
Lithium-ion batteries are small and lightweight and can store a lot of power as compared to other types of batteries like lead-acid ones.
The small form factor makes lithium-ion batteries the perfect energy storage solution in all portable electronic devices like power banks, portable jump starters, smartphones, laptops, digital cameras, and even in cordless power tools.
The lithium-ion battery technology has advanced so much that they are now being used in EV (electric vehicles) and in homes to store energy generated by solar panels and windmills during the day and use it at night.
What makes lithium-ion batteries so dangerous?
Storing a lot of energy in a lightweight and compact form factor is good for portability and smaller foot-print but it can also be dangerous if not handled properly or manufacturing defect.
Lithium-ion batteries are meant to be charged and discharged in a controlled manner. To do this (in a controlled manner), every lithium-ion battery has to be connected to a BMS (battery management system) which regulates the voltage and current of each cell in a battery when charging or discharging.
This system also protects the battery from short circuits and reverse polarity. This is to prevent the lithium-ion battery from going bad (or exploding) during normal use.
Manufacturing defects can also cause lithium ion-batteries to malfunction and explode even if the BMS is still good.
We have all seen big manufacturers like Apple and Samsung recall their devices with faulty batteries and offer free replacement. Usually, when a recall happens, the devices are banned from the airlines as well for the safety of all passengers.