Airbus Nixes Lithium-Ion Battery for A350

 - February 15, 2013, 9:44 AM
Airbus has reverted to 'Plan B' for the main-ship battery requirements of the A350XWB. (Photo: Airbus)

Airbus has decided against using a lithium-ion main ship battery for the A350 XWB following the findings by the U.S. National Transportation Board of short-circuiting and “thermal runaway” in the APU battery that caught fire on January 7 in a Japan Air Lines Boeing 787. A similar incident occurred with the main battery on an All Nippon Airways 787 flying a domestic route over Japan on January 16, prompting a worldwide grounding of the Dreamliner fleet.

Airbus said it does not expect the decision to revert to nickel cadmium main batteries for the A350 to affect the timing of the airplane’s entry into service, now scheduled for the second half of 2014.

“Airbus is confident that the lithium ion (Li-ion) main battery architecture it has been developing with Saft and qualifying for the A350 XWB aircraft is robust and safe. The A350 XWB flight test program will continue as planned with the qualified Li-ion main batteries,” said the company in a statment.

“However, to date, the root causes of the two recent industry Li-ion main batteries incidents remain unexplained to the best of our knowledge. In this context, and with a view to ensuring the highest level of program certainty, Airbus has decided to activate its ‘Plan B’ and, therefore, to revert back to the proven and mastered nickel cadmium main batteries for its A350 XWB program at Entry into Service (EIS). Airbus considers this to be the most appropriate way forward in the interest of program execution and A350 XWB reliability.”

Meanwhile, the company has launched additional “maturity studies” on lithium-ion main batteries behavior in aerospace operations and said it will “naturally take on board” the findings of the ongoing investigations in the U.S. and Japan.