E-bike vacations are becoming a common thing for electric bike enthusiasts, with many people venturing into cycling trails abroad.
This is pretty easy to do if you’re traveling by car, but the problem comes when you have to fly to your destination.
The thing is airlines won’t ordinarily allow you to bring an e-bike onto a plane, the main limitation being the battery. There is a strict safety protocol that needs to be adhered to if you are to take your e-bike on board. So, with all these technicalities in mind, can you really take your e-bike on a plane?
There are strict limitations on the capacity and size of the battery you can carry, whether through checked or carry-on baggage. Generally, plane operators will limit the battery capacity to 100Wh, although some will let you bring a battery of up to 160Wh rating.
Considering that most electric bikes carry a battery with a capacity in the range of 300Wh-600Wh or more, you will be prohibited to take the battery onto the plane. Luckily, there are a couple of options you can take to ensure that both your electric bike and the battery get to the intended destination, albeit separately!
So, Why Won’t they Allow You to Get an E-bike onto a Plane?
All passenger aircrafts have strict safety protocols for the kind of baggage that travelers can bring on board. There are two ways that luggage is carried inside a plane: as carry-on baggage or in the plane’s cargo compartment. Unfortunately, neither is an option when it comes to most e-bike batteries.
A great number of the batteries you see passengers carrying onto a plane generally fall below a 100Wh rating, and these are used to power gadgets such as cameras, mobile phones, as well as original laptop batteries.
In the U.S for instance, the FAA permits lithium-ion batteries up to 100Wh as carry-on luggage. However, exceptions may be made for batteries up to 160Wh, which you’d ordinarily find in equipment such as some medical devices.
Lithium-ion batteries carried as checked baggage also have a limit of 100Wh, and no spare batteries are allowed into the plane. This is to say that the battery needs to be attached to an electronic gadget, tool, or piece of equipment.
Note that the 100wh battery rating limit is normally below what you’d find in most electric bike batteries!
Calculating the Watt-Hours of a Battery
Watt, amp-hours, and volts are the common primary energy parameters used to define e-bike motors. While you may find batteries with the watt-hour rating printed on the packaging, it’s not unusual for the battery capacity to be expressed in amp-hours or volts in some models.
So, if you want to find the watt-hour rating in such a case, you can do this by multiplying the volts by the amp-hours. For instance, a 48V e-bike battery with a 10 amp-hour rating will give you a 480Wh rating (48 x 10) = 480Wh.
Alternatives to Taking an Electric Bike on a Plane
Just because your electric bike battery is too large to be allowed onto a passenger plane, this shouldn’t dash your hopes of having an e-bike holiday. There are a handful of ways you can get around this obstacle.
Split the Battery into Smaller Batteries
You can carry a few smaller batteries that are allowed on a plane so that you turn them into a larger battery once you arrive at your destination. With the 100Wh battery capacity in mind, one company offers batteries that are under this limit, the LiGo battery module is rated at (36V x 2.5Ah = 98Wh). The battery can be reassembled into a larger battery to power your e-bike.
You can stack a couple of these batteries in parallel so that you end up with a higher capacity battery with the same voltage rating. Alternatively, you can arrange them in series to make a 72V battery, depending on the requirements and specs of the bike and its controller.
A single LiGo battery module carries around 5-6 miles of range. According to the company, you shouldn’t bring along more than 4-5 modules when boarding a plane to avoid unnecessary scrutiny when you get to the airline security.
Overall, this is a very good option when you want to fly with your electric bike. Although it may seem a little bit costlier than the other options at first, it still leaves you with a chance to reuse the batteries on subsequent trips or when you get back home.
However, you should note that the 36/72V battery may be incompatible with some e-bikes, so make sure this isn’t the case for your e-bike model before choosing this alternative.
Rent a Battery at your Destination
Another practical option you can take is to remove the battery and fly with the bike as an ordinary bicycle. Upon reaching your holiday destination, you can find an e-bike battery rental for the duration of your vacation.
That being said, a few things should be considered when planning to hire a battery. For starters, you need to perform due diligence in advance to make sure you can indeed find someone willing to rent an e-bike battery. This is because e-bike battery rental isn’t the most common service out there, hence you need to clarify this in advance.
If you are traveling to a destination with a rich cycling tradition, then this improves your chances of finding a rental service. Furthermore, you want to make sure that the battery you plan to hire is compatible with your specific e-bike model.
Unfortunately, there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to e-bike batteries, so it will require some research to determine the battery size required for your bike. In short, you want to pay attention to the battery capacity (Ah) and (V) ratings, as well as any details related to the particular connecting adapter to your e-bicycle kit.
As far as the rental costs are concerned, we obtained the following rates from an e-bike shop in Spain to give you some idea of the price.
Battery Capacity (Wh)
Some outlets in North America will charge you anything in the range of 20 bucks per day for a spare battery while others will only rent out the complete electric bike as opposed to just the battery.
Even though this may seem like a lot of trouble for you, hiring a battery at your destination is way cheaper than renting an entire bike. Keep in mind that biking holidays can last weeks if not months, and the rental rates for an e-bike abroad can be quite steep.
Ship the Battery Separately
Alternatively, you may be compelled to ship your e-bike’s battery to your destination, but this will cost you a pretty sum. Courier agencies such as UPS and FedEx provide concise information on what it will take to have your battery shipped. This generally involves the kind of packaging needed before sending your package.
For instance, it should be declared a “Dangerous Goods”, as well as feature a label stating that it’s suited for cargo aircraft only. The packaging should also be in such a way that protects the battery against short-circuiting. In a nutshell, sending your e-bike battery to your destination will require:
- Max net weight for a package is 35kg for CA0 (Cargo Aircraft Only)
- Each battery must be shielded against short-circuiting and encased in an internal package that completely covers the battery and covered with an even stronger outer package
- UN specification packaging needed
- For stand-alone batteries, the SOC shouldn’t exceed 30% rated capacity
- Should be fully regulated
- Should come with shippers “Dangerous Goods” declaration
- Cargo Aircraft Only
- Waybill needs to have a “Dangerous Goods as per attached DGD” statement
Bear in mind that if you decide to ship the battery to your destination, you’ll need to make arrangements for it to get to your hotel. This may turn out to be more complicated than expected, especially if there is a foreign language involved.
Additionally, if you choose to ship the entire e-bike alongside the battery, this will cost you more than shipping the battery alone, considering that you’ll be paying shipping costs for both the battery and the e-bike.
Use an Alternative form of Transportation
Lastly, your only reasonable alternative, is to use a different mode of transport. For instance, there are no restrictions involved when you want to take your e-bike on a ferry. If you are to board a ferry to mainland Europe (France or Belgium), you can continue with your journey by bike or car to your intended destination.
This method, however, limits the number of destinations to which you can travel. On the bright side it can save you all the hassle and costs involved in the other options discussed above.
Taking an electric bike on a plane can turn out to be a dilemma you didn’t anticipate.
Fortunately, performing the required due diligence and preparing well in advance will help you to avoid all the unnecessary confusion and or costs. With this article we hoped we provided you with some practical tips on how to transport your e-bike battery with no hassle!