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Mon, Feb 04, 2013

Airbus Has Studied A350 Battery Alternatives

But So Far Plans To Stick With Lithium-Ion Cells Similar To Dreamliner's

Airbus has reportedly studied alternatives to lithium-ion batteries like those that have caused the entire Dreamliner fleet to be grounded for use in its new A350XWB airline currently in development. But the planemaker says for now, it still plans to use the lithium-ion cells.

Reuters reports that Airbus Chief Executive Fabrice Bregier (pictured) said in a session with French journalists that the company has looked very carefully at the integration of the batteries into the new composite-construction airliner, and for now, he "is very relaxed about this."

The potential issues with lithium-ion batteries are fairly well documented, but they also weigh about a third less than nickel-cadmium batteries often placed on airliners, and take up less space. However, the Dreamliner relies on electrical systems for functions often handled by hydraulics ... such as brakes ... placing more stress on the system.

GS Yuasa Corp, which manufactures the Dreamliner batteries, is a subcontractor of the French defense electronics group Thales.

Airbus is content for now to allow Boeing and the NTSB to work through the issue. Bregier said he has no plans to "give any lessons to Boeing" about how to build an airplane with batteries that don't catch fire, "but I don't have to take any either."

In a related development, Bloomberg News reports that a former chair of the NTSB called the FAA's policy allowing Boeing to oversee some of the certification work into question. Former Board Chair Jim Hall said in an interview "I think everyone recognizes there is an inherent conflict there."

Hall said that the FAA can't afford to hire enough engineers to do all of the testing needed for certification. And John McGraw, a former FAA deputy safety director, said the agency does not always have the requisite expertise to properly assess new designs.

The FAA told Bloomberg that it "provides rigorous oversight," and will revoke a company's self-oversight authority if there is "any evidence the delegation system is compromised."

The NTSB has not yet released any information about how the battery systems in question were evaluated during the Dreamliner's certification process.

FMI: www.faa.gov, www.ntsb.gov

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