With a battery re-design underway, Boeing is reportedly considering a potential longer-term solution for its beleaguered Dreamliner that the company says is a "green" fix for the 787's electrical issues. The company plans to cover the wings, horizontal stabilizer, and upper fuselage with solar-electric cells to generate power currently supplied by the airplane's lithium-ion batteries.
A source close to the project who was not authorized to speak to the media told ANN that the retrofit will be heavy, expensive, costly, and time consuming for the airplanes already in service, but that those costs will come down as more airplanes are built. "You can't run these things on a couple of Eveready 9 volt cells," the source said. "So if you want power on the ground, and the LI batteries are going to be such a problem, well some compromises are going to have to be made." Engineers from the Solar Impulse team recently flew to Everett, WA, for meetings with Boeing officials, but would only say that they had been contracted by Boeing to work on a special project.
Since the airplane would not essentially change, the question about re-certification could not immediately be answered. FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said he could not comment on the plan, as it had not been formally proposed to the agency.
With the efficiency race pretty much scrapped, Airbus said that it was also considering eco-friendly power generation for its A350XWB. A source said that the Airbus plan involved dozens of windmills strategically placed around the airplane to generate electricity as it moves through the air. "We'll still be the most eco-efficient airplane on the market," an Airbus official said. "Windmill production is much cleaner than manufacturing solar cells."