Airbus drops lithium-ion batteries for new A350

15 February 2013
By Sofia Mitra-Thakur
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Airbus expected to use Saft's nickel-cadmium batteries

Airbus expected to use Saft's nickel-cadmium batteries

Airbus will drop lithium-ion batteries and switch to traditional nickel-cadmium batteries for its new A350 passenger jet following battery problems on Boeing's 787 Dreamliner, the European planemaker said.

Airbus said it had taken the decision to prevent further delays in initial deliveries of the A350 amid uncertainty over whether investigations into Boeing's battery problems would lead to changes in regulations.

Reuters had reported that Airbus was considering such a move to limit development risks on its $15bn airliner.

"We want to mature the lithium-ion technology but we are making this decision today to protect the A350's entry into service schedule," a spokeswoman said.

Industry executives, insurers and safety officials had told Reuters the technology's predictability was being questioned at senior levels as investigators struggle to find the cause of incidents that led to the grounding of Boeing's 787 Dreamliner.

These included a fire on board a parked 787 in Boston and an in-flight problem on another plane in Japan.

The A350 is due to enter service in the second half of 2014 compared with an initial target of 2012 when it was launched as Europe's answer to the lightweight 787 Dreamliner.

Airbus will use lithium-ion batteries for initial test flights due to start in the summer of 2013 but make the switch to the traditional and slightly heavier battery before the plane enters service.

French company Saft makes the lithium-ion battery that has been ditched for the A350 and supplies traditional nickel-cadmium batteries to the rest of Airbus product range.

A Saft spokeswoman said that Airbus was expected to use Saft nickel-cadmium batteries to replace the lithium-ion ones it has been developing.

Airbus says it did not expect the battery switch to set back the A350's schedule.

"Airbus considers this to be the most appropriate way forward in the interest of programme execution and A350 XWB reliability," spokeswoman Mary Anne Greczyn said.

The plane-maker said its A350 flight-test programme would still go forward with lithium-ion batteries, but because what caused the problems with the 787 batteries remained unclear, it decided to make the switch "to optimise programme certainty".

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