Amidst concern relating to a fire on a Boeing 787, the spectre has been raised that Lithium Ion batteries may be entirely banned from the cargo holds of planes.
The Lithium Ion batteries in question were those used within Boeing's 787 Dreamliner planes, but it appears that there may be moves to ban all Lithium Ion batteries from plane cargo. Venture Beat reports that the International Air Transport Association wants to move all shipments of such batteries off planes. Initial reports suggested that some airlines might ban them outright over fire fears — I'd suggest such a move would be commercial suicide for any long-haul airline wanting to retain passengers — and it appears that Cathay Pacific may already be stopping shipment of Lithium Ion batteries on its cargo aircraft.
The Seattle Times goes into more detail on the precise issue for larger Lithium Ion batteries, noting that Boeing most likely opted for Lithium Ion due to the lower mass of battery needed for a precise amount of power. It quotes Vince Battaglia, a specialist in battery design at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California:
"nothing is safe — you’ve still got a lot of energy and an electrolyte in there that’s flammable."
What's the practical uptake likely to be? Most airlines already either severely restrict or outright ban you putting lithium ion batteries above relatively small capacities into checked luggage over fire fears, but it seems highly unlikely that they'll implement any kind of in-cabin ban, simply because no airline would want to be the first to act and lose valuable business passengers to rival airlines. It could mean, however, that you'll have to be even more careful with how you pack your checked luggage in the future.
Lithium-ion batteries may be banned from some airplanes’ cargo after Boeing 787 fires and Lithium-ion batteries pack a lot of energy — and challenges [VentureBeat and The Seattle Times]