Boeing it seems is on the full defensive on the use of Lithium-Ion Batteries in its 787 Dreamliner plane in a rebuttal from Elon Musk (of Tesla Cars and SpaceX) who states the batteries shipped to Boeing are “fundamentally unsafe“.
As you’re all aware, the 787 Dreamliners are all sitting on the ground after two battery incidents with the aircraft.
In the FlightGlobal article, Elon Musk has a technological assessment of the implementation used:
“Large cells without enough space between them to isolate against the cell-to-cell thermal domino effect means it is simply a matter of time before there are more incidents of this nature”
Lithium-Ion batteries are subject to thermal runaways (where the battery begins to overhead to a dangerous point causing leakage or combustion) when they are overheated or overcharged. Whilst there is fail-safe circuitry that shuts down the battery when its voltage is outside the normal limits, even these are not enough sometimes.
A good example is when the Sony Battery recall of 2006 occurred due to fires breaking out in laptops with Sony cells inside the battery packs – see http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/129764-tech-wrecks-lessons-from-some-of-the-biggest-hardware-screw-ups/2
Whilst Boeing is carrying out an investigation to find out what caused the battery malfunctions, Jim McNerney, CEO of Boeing states
“Nothing that we have learned has told us that we have made the wrong choice on the battery technology,”
“We feel good about the battery technology and it’s fit for the aeroplane.
“We have just got to get to the root cause of these incidents and we will take a look at the data as it evolves, but there is nothing that we have learned that causes us to question it at this stage.”
This comes after ANA and Japan Airlines confirm that they have had to change over number of battery packs already, with ANA changing over 10 packs in the past few months, whilst Japan Airlines has changed over packs “in a few cases”.
Boeing notes that the replacement rate was “slightly higher” than usual, the changes were “routine maintenance” and were not due to any safety issues.
Meanwhile, whilst the issue is being addressed it is “Business as usual” for Boeing as it begins to ramp up production of the 787 – and continue further development of wide-body planes.
50 Boeing 787′s that have been delivered to customer airlines currently on the ground, with deliveries halted of new aircraft for now.