A350 Ditches Lithium-Ion Batteries

Airbus A350-800 Rendering

Airbus A350-800 Rendering | Courtesy Airbus

Airbus Axes Plans for Lithium-Ion Batteries on A350 XWB

February 15, 2013 – (Louisville, KY): Airbus announced today they are scraping the usage of lithium-ion batteries for its A350 Extra Wide Body (XWB) Program at Entry into Service. Airbus is turning to “Plan B”, through the use of proven nickel cadmium (NiCD) batteries instead.

This move comes after two serious events involving the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner and their lithium-ion batteries. The Boeing 787 is the first commercial airliner to adopt extensive use of the lithium-ion battery. Despite being certified for one smoke event per 10 million flight hours, the Boeing 787 experienced two separate smoke/fire events (including thermal runaway of batteries) in less than 100,000 flight hours. The two events led to the grounding of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner worldwide.

Airbus is Boeing’s primary competitor and they’re watching the developments with the 787 batteries closely.

In a statement, Airbus states they are confident the lithium-ion main battery architecture they are developing with Saft is robust and safe. The A350 XWB test program will continue as planned with the lithium-ion main batteries, but express concern that the root cause of the 787 battery incidents remain unexplained.

As a result, Airbus will go with nickel cadmium (NiCD) batteries as they believe it’s in the best interest for the A350 XWB program execution and aircraft reliability.

Damaged main battery from ANA Boeing 787 flight.

Damaged main battery from ANA Boeing 787-8 flight

Airbus will continue with maturity studies of the lithium-ion battery and behavior of the batteries in aerospace operations. Needless to say, Airbus is closely following the two on-going investigations with the Boeing 787 lithium-ion battery.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating the JAL incident in Boston while the Japan Transport Safety Board (JTSB) is investigating the incident in which an ANA 787 made an emergency landing in Takamatsu (TAK), Japan.

So far the NTSB has been unable to uncover a short circuit, but the root cause of the battery incidents remain unexplained. It’s possible evidence as to what happened burned in the fire, but generally a specific problem must be located to come up with a fix. At this point, it appears a fix for the Boeing 787 is a long ways off, three, maybe four months, at minimum. LOT Polish Airlines has removed the Boeing 787 from their schedule until October while Boeing is deferring deliveries.

As the decision is made to go with the nickel cadmium (NiCD) battery, Airbus does not expect any impact to the A350 XWB Entry Into Service Schedule.

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