It rarely makes sense to ship e-bike batteries across the Atlantic1. They are considered “dangerous goods”, and as such require special handling, which incurs additional costs. Typically it makes more economic sense to sell your batteries before departing, and buy new batteries when you arrive at your destination. This avoids paying any shipping and handling costs, and instead you are only footing the bill for the depreciation in value of your used e-bike batteries (assuming you buy and sell at a fair price).
However, in some circumstances it does make economic sense. I found myself in such a situation2, but could find no helpful advice online that walked through the steps of how to ship e-bike batteries across the Atlantic.
Can’t I just visit FedEx and have them ship my e-bike batteries?
Sadly not! The batteries must already be packed by a certified professional, and FedEx will not do this for you. The batteries are considered “dangerous goods”, and not all FedEx locations are able to handle them.
Here is a sneak peek of what the packed batteries should look like:
So, in the vague hope that this information will save someone else some of the trouble I went through, all the steps are detailed below. I’ll be making some definitive sounding statements, but they all come with a giant asterisk: I take no responsibility for whether relevant laws or processes have changed since I went through these steps.
Steps for shipping an e-bike battery §
You will be sending your e-bike battery by air cargo, i.e. on an airplane that has no passengers. The e-bike itself will be shipped separately3.
You cannot take your e-bike battery as hold luggage or hand luggage on a passenger airplane.4
You cannot send your e-bike battery by ship.5
Drain the battery below 30% §
Legally, the e-bike battery must have below 30% charge before it can be sent by air cargo.6
Separate the battery from the e-bike §
Hopefully you have an e-bike which allows removing the battery. If not, I’m afraid you’re on your own!3
My e-bike (minus battery) went in a shipping container, along with all my household goods.
Find a certified dangerous goods packaging professional §
You cannot pack the e-bike battery yourself.7 You must find a certified professional to do so.
I found a certified professional by ringing FedEx, saying “dangerous goods international” when prompted for my query8. I was then connected with a human. I told them my location, and they told me the name of the nearest business who could do the packaging for me9.
Ship the battery via the packaging business §
I took the battery to the packaging business. There was a fee for the packaging and a fee for paperwork.
The box had to have the following:
I also agreed to let them hand the package directly to FedEx for me.10
Receive the batteries on the other end §
I was sending the e-bike batteries to a business address (my employer)11. This meant there was always going to be someone on hand to receive the package. My batteries turned up a few days later. The parcel I received is at the start of this note.
Speaking as an individual, of course. For some companies, shipping large amounts of e-bike batteries is just day-to-day business. But hopefully someone in that position wouldn’t need to read some random notes they found on the internet to figure that out! ↩︎
My situation, in brief, was that my employer was paying for my relocation from the USA to the UK. I had a budget for shipping, which I could not use for buying new e-bike batteries. ↩︎
In theory, you can ship an e-bike with its battery attached, but the entire package will be classified “dangerous goods”, and it will be very heavy. Quotes I got from FedEx and UPS in May 2023 for shipping something the size and weight of my e-bike (ignoring the “dangerous goods” aspect) were in the order of thousands of dollars. Since I was relocating, I already had a shipping container for my household goods, so the e-bike went in there. ↩︎ ↩︎
If your e-bike battery is a low enough wattage, then you may be able to take it on a passenger airplane, but check with your airline first. Anything 600W or more definitely cannot, which covers most e-bike batteries. For example, my e-bike battery was 672W. ↩︎
I had a shipping container going from the USA to the UK for my household goods. I spoke with my agent about the possibility of including the e-bike with battery in the shipping container. They explained that in the past this would have been allowed (perhaps prior to 2020 approximately), and that some shipping companies do still allow it, but some do not. When you ship household goods from the USA to the UK they do not necessarily go on just one ship. Mine went on three (USA to Panama, Panama to Netherlands, Netherlands to UK). By having “dangerous goods” that some shipping companies refuse to take, you limit your shipping options, which may incur big delays. When that same shipping container contains all your worldly posessions, it’s not worth the risk of additional delays from including “dangerous goods” in the container. ↩︎
I was surprised to find that no one told me this seemingly important fact. It was only through reading the official material myself that I found this out. This would have been a pickle if my e-bike (minus battery) had already been packed, since the easiest way to run the battery down is just to go for a long ride. ↩︎
Unless if you have the federal qualifications to do so, in which case you probably already knew everything on this page! ↩︎
The automated phone system at FedEx cost me some time. Initially I rang and said “dangerous goods”. They transferred me to a human who was very helpful, until they asked where I was shipping my e-bike batteries to. It turned out they only dealed with domestic shipping, so they transferred me to someone who handles international shipping. This next human was very helpful regarding international shipping, but when they found out I was shipping “dangerous goods”, it turned out that was outside of their area of expertise, so they needed to transfer me to a dangerous goods expert. So, the key takeaway is you need to ask for both “dangerous goods” and “international”. Saying “dangerous goods international” seemed to work for me on subsequent calls. ↩︎
I was moving from Seattle. FedEx recommended Hazmat Express, in Tukwila, about a half hour drive away. I had a positive experience with Hazmat Express and would recommend them for anyone else in Seattle. ↩︎
It is possible to just get the packaging company to do the packaging, and then hand it back to you. However, then you have the problem of finding a courier willing to handle the “dangerous goods”. I chose to send my e-bike batteries via FedEx. Not every FedEx location has “dangerous goods” handling capabilities. So if you do opt to do this step yourself, make sure to ring ahead to FedEx and see if they can handle these “dangerous goods”. ↩︎
I think the packaging business asked whether it was being sent to a business address. I think this made things a bit simpler for them, but cannot recall entirely. ↩︎