Airbus drops lithium battery for A350

Airbus, A350 and Lithium battery: Airbus has dropped plans to use the lithium-ion battery in the A350. An Airbus official told us, “We confirm we are opting for nickel cadmium for the A350 main batteries to protect the programme schedule.  This decision is about protecting the integrity of our program schedule… (it’s not about any safety concerns about Li-ion batteries, we continue in parallel to mature for the A350.  With so much uncertainty raised by the Boeing 787 investigation, we are being prudent in order protect our programme schedule. This is business as usual.”

“As a result of making this decision now, Airbus does not expect it to impact the A350 XWB Entry Into Service schedule,” an Airbus statement added.

55 Comments on “Airbus drops lithium battery for A350

  1. I wonder if Boeing will end up following suit. After several weeks of not finding the root cause of the two battery fires in the 787, there is surely the prospect that they never will? Which means that they will be relying on more effective containment of fires when they do break out

    • Boeing still has its corporate head in the Li-ion sand. And if Airbus opts for Ni-Cd batteries Boeing will not take the opportunity to do the same. Instead they will wait, and waste a lot of time in the process, for the NTSB to tell them that there are no other options.

  2. No surprise there. Airbus is aware of what is going on with the NTSB investigation and confronted with the obvious decided to take the safest route and, in my opinion, the only sensible one.

  3. Isn’t the Li-Ion batteries in the B-787 and A-350 32 volt batteries? Ni-Cad batteries are only 28 volt. That sounds like a redesign to me, so no, they cannot meet the current scheduled EIS in late 2014..

    • Um, no batteries are any voltage you design them to be. Single cell output might be fixed but in aggregate you can get any output you want. Li-Ion in your laptop gives 12v not 32, its just a design decision. So yes technically redesign but a absolutely tiny one.

      • So by the same stretch, a relatively tiny redesign for Boeing? If so, what are they waiting for?

      • I already pointed that out when KC posted exactly the same thing a few days ago. Tried to make it clear by showing how the number of AAA cells you put in a household device changes the voltage to fit the needs in exactly the same way.

        Not clear enough, apparently.

    • Rechargeable NiCd batteries can have any voltage as a multiple of 1.2 V. With about 27 cells you’ll reach 32 V. Remember that voltage fluctuates according to level of charge between 1.0 V and 1.5 V. So electronic equipment has do cope with bandwidth of voltage.

      • That’s why we use voltage regulators. They’ve been around for 150 years or so already. 🙂

      • Anyway nominal voltage for the Li-Ion type used by Yuasa is 3.7 V ( * 8 ~= 29.6 V )
        4.0 V cell voltage is the ultimate end of charge.
        Go over that an the cell goes “postal”
        3.5 V is the lower absolute threshold ( extremely temperature dependent )

        The corresponding voltage for NiCd is ~1.4V ( with the
        cell heating up beyond, slow death )

        IMHO the 32V tag is a distraction

  4. Airbus had a smaller application, seperated, ventilated cells on their less electrical aircraft. Is Boeing going to say Airbus are overreacting, that their application is safer and only needs a quick fix? It seems to me Boeing is running out of options here.

      • They tried that in Boston and it took them 59 minutes to extinguish the fire. Besides, there is a weight penalty associated with carrying all that water. But we never know, Boeing is ready to do anything to save the Li-ion batteries. 😉

      • Well, Boeing knows that if they have to change to traditional nickel-cadmium batteries they can kiss goodbye to the grounding being lifted this year, since quite a few months of additional engineering work as well as re-certification by the FAA would be required. That’s why we’ll probably be seeing Boeing going all out in trying to convince the regulators that some sort of containment will be OK for now. Whether that will fly remains to be seen.

  5. OV-099 :
    That’s why we’ll probably be seeing Boeing going all out in trying to convince the regulators that some sort of containment will be OK for now. Whether that will fly remains to be seen.

    As long as Boeing had to deal only with the FAA it could get away with irresponsible approvals like we have seen for the Li-ion batteries. But with the NTSB now in the picture Boeing will not get away with a quick fix and a friendly tap on the shoulder.

    • Well, Boeing will have to deal with EASA and MLIT in addition to the FAA. Neither Boeing nor the FAA have to listen to the NTSB, even though it wouldn’t be very smart thing to do not doing so. The FAA has a track record, it seems, in not enforcing NTSB recommendations, with the worst “offense” being the sidelining of NTSB recommendation on how MACDAC should proceed with the DC-10 following the 1972 bulk aft cargo door failure, which lead to an explosive decompression incident on the AA Flight 96 over Windsor, Ontario. Thanks to a seeming gullibility on part of the FAA, nothing happened leading to the death of 346 people two years later.

      http://hrcak.srce.hr/file/67957

      There were several errors in the design of the fuselage for this plane: the bulk aft cargo door had to be secured from the outside, and there was no way for those inside the plane to check that this had been done correctly. If it was not done correctly, the door could blow out during flight. Once this happened, the cargo hold would depressurize. The passenger compartment would remain pressurized, so there would be an immense differential pressure on the passenger floor. The floor would collapse, rupturing the hydraulic control lines to the rear engine and control surfaces on the rear wings. The plane would then most probably crash.

      Daniel Applegate, the director of project engineering at Convair, the company that designed the fuselage, wrote a memo to his supervisors detailing potential problems of cargo door, saying ”It seems to me inevitable that, in the twenty years ahead of us, DC-10 cargo doors will come open, and I expect this to usually result in the loss of the plane.” After the Detroit near-disaster, NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) investigation revealed several problems and recommended immediate design changes. FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) did not follow NTSB recommendations. FAA director John Shaffer and McDonnell Douglas President Jackson McGowan reached a gentleman’s agreement to voluntarily fix the problem, but no further official action was taken.

      In July 1972, three inspectors at Long Beach plant certified that DC-10 plane no. 29 (Ship 29) had been modified to fix problems. Each affixed a stamp to the Ship’s paperwork confirming the modifications. The modifications, in fact, had not been made. The only change made to the aircraft was to install a one inch peephole overlooking the locking pins. It would have been possible to provide further protection, by, for example, installing vents between the cargo hold and the passenger compartment so that the pressure differential would equalize before crushing the floor, but this would have involved major design changes. On March 3, 1974, Turkish Airlines DC-10 (just the one previously mentioned as plane no. 29, i.e. Ship 29) took off from Paris. At the height of 3658 meters the bulk aft cargo door blew out and all 346 people on board were killed, including 12 crew members.

      • As a result of the THY DC-10 accident, On Jul 7, 1975, FAA issued airworthiness directive 75-15-05 requiring the manufacturers to ensure that the floors of all wide-body jets could withstand the effects of rapid in-flight decompression caused by sudden appearance of an opening of up to 20 square feet in the lower deck cargo compartment. This could be achived by strengthening the floors and/or installing relief vents between the passenger cabin and aft cargo compartment”

        All in-service 747’s DC-10’s, L-1011’s and A300’s in service at that time had until the end of 1977 to comply by retroift. From then on all new wide-bodies have had the vents installed in production

    • How many years did it take the NTSB to get FAA to do something about the Boeing 737 rudder problem? 10 years ?

  6. EbbUk :So by the same stretch, a relatively tiny redesign for Boeing? If so, what are they waiting for?

    small design yes but recertification required…hence why Airbus is changing now for a direct certification of Ni-Cd

  7. Rudolf Svarre Jensen :
    How many years did it take the NTSB to get FAA to do something about the Boeing 737 rudder problem? 10 years ?

    The question should be: “How many years did it take the NTSB to convince itself there was a problem with the rudder?”

    But the situation today is very different. The 737 fleet was never grounded because of the rudder problem. Therefore there was no “urgency” at the time in the minds of many people. And Boeing was untouchable in those days. But recently we have started to see cracks in the edifice.

    The FAA is also weakened by the discovery of the sloppy standards that were improvised to certify the Dreamliner. There are also widely spread public concerns, with aggressive politicians ready to seize the opportunity to overhaul the FAA.

    All that combined shifts the balance of power away from the FAA, and there is nothing Boeing can do about it because its public image is now tarnished by the whole 787 saga.

    With Deborah Hersman in charge of the NTSB we have a powerful, and credible, organization with the morale authority to take the ascendant over the proceedings.

  8. OV-099 :
    Neither Boeing nor the FAA have to listen to the NTSB, even though it wouldn’t be very smart thing to do not doing so. The FAA has a track record, it seems, in not enforcing NTSB recommendations.

    The whole world is riveted to any statement coming out of the NTSB, while the FAA remains silent. When the NTSB enquiry is over it will inevitably come out with “recommendations”. Except that in the present situation those recommendations will carry the same weight as an edict from the Supreme Court.

    • That may not be a given thing.
      Come this March sequestration will introduce funny things.
      This will also turn into a strong distraction for the general public.

      the first rally faltered ( a couple of days ago ) but that will probably not be the last we’ve seen.

      apropos: FAA never reacted to repeated prompting from the NTSB on the topic of burning/smoking/defective Boeing cockpit window heaters on various types.

    • One should note though that generally speaking, it’s more difficult to be proactive than reactive. Especially so in times of constant technological developments and changes, and where the regulating agencies are not given adequate funds and are able to hire personnel with the right specific skills in order to provide effective regulation. Hence, the current travails of the FAA are in that sense “understandable”, while the lack of FAA-action on the DC-10 after the Windsor event was IMO totally inexcusable!

      • Tech surfing. What Airbus does.
        To some part Invent, follow and explore new technologies and incorporate them step by step. ( With adequate success imho )

  9. This issue in my opinion has received so much adverse reaction and commentary that an interim fix is unlikely to be acceptable.
    A new containment system in itself is an admission that at current levels of technology, Li-on is inherently unstable and therefore dangerous.
    This I believe was the trigger that made Airbus bite the bullet.
    No doubt Boeing are designing an alternative as prudence would dictate.The question is when will they also bite the bullet?

  10. Andrew :
    No doubt Boeing are designing an alternative as prudence would dictate.The question is when will they also bite the bullet?

    They better bite the bullet before the bullet bites them.

  11. Some thing else to chat about outher then the B787’s A350’s A door on a brand new A380 Emirates flight from Bangkok to Hong kong blew opened at 27.000 ft 7th/02/2013.

    • The article is from the “Daily Mail”! Best yellow press journalism! Read avherald.com with comments. The Emirates 380 took off after the incident having had a 2hr turnaround and flies on as if nothing had happened.
      My opinion: leaking door seal. No door can pop open because they open inwards first. With the high delta pressure, they are firmly pressed to the surrounding structure. Of course, a leaking seal cannot be sold by the “Daily Mail” as a near catastrophe… 😉

    • An Airbus spokesman said: ‘It is not possible for a cabin door to open on an A380 or on any aircraft whilst in flight, as doors open inwards and have locking mechanisms.’

      Still trying to see on the pictures a missing door at 27000ft…

      • And…looking at the pictures: the green light means the door is closed and locked! 😉 Of course the quality journalism of the DM found that the green light indicates an open door… 😉

  12. I have a feeling that when Airbus came out with the news of plan B, the airlines then told them, ‘OK, let’s have it then’… At which point they decided to hedge their bets but had to call it now in order to have enough time to adapt the system to NiCad batteries. They will then, in parallel, test their Li technology and may bring it in later, when the dust settles and clarity emerges… Sensible decision.

  13. In a situation like this many probably feel “thank god we have the NTSB” that seems sufficient independent, no political and no close friends / collegaes to the impressive, proud industry.

    I wonder which credible party would watch / correct the European EASA in a case like this, apart from the FAA.

    • The closest thing to NTSB in Europe is the BEA (Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses). But I am not aware of any Pan-European equivalent to NTSB, unless the BEA plays that role.

    • What about the various European NTSB look alikes ?

      BEA CAA BFU …

      A lot more eyes watching EASA than are checkin on the FAA imho.

      For some reason or other EASA ({)–} FAA supervision seems
      to not work as expected. politics and potential retaliatory action ?

      Wonder how much grumbling the coopted 787 certification caused
      with EASA personnel.
      The japanese authorities shew more reservations towards
      high initial ETOPS numbers even though we learned recently
      of other adjustments.

      I would asume quite a bit of underhanded pressuring going on
      in a networked effort.

  14. EbbUk :
    So by the same stretch, a relatively tiny redesign for Boeing? If so, what are they waiting for?

    The problem for boeing is not the redesign its the (re-) certification procedures that is the limiting factor on the time line. For airbus they still need to certify a battery (time which has been planned in) certifying battery A or battery B does not make a “large” difference.

  15. Boeing would have to recertify all the hardware, software and connected electrical systems against all applicable requirements (after determining the scope, impact) And they would have to develop and certify a modification program for the existing fleet.

    • Wonder if Boeings attributions of “very complex” and “deeply integrated” have any merrit.

      If yes and if they’ve done it the Microsoft way ( i.e. leverage some special property in A for small gains in Z, crossing a set of principal demarcations while preparing the field for future repercussions from this decission ) they are in real trouble now.

      • I am sure the Airbus A350XWB is also “very complex” and “deeply integrated”.

      • There are differences.

        If you have a source providing a usefull and hard limited nomial voltage of 28V +-10% do you require from all sinks
        to be able to work from just this limited envelope or do you
        design to wider constraints like 28V+-20% ?

        Do you utilise the low impedance properties provided by
        the battery you be able to accept load shedding spikes
        ( “eaten up” by the battery ) instead of fixing your load shedding issues?

        Should your APU Starter inverter solely work from a low impedance and low voltage tolerance source or should
        it accomodate a “softer” source and lower voltages?

        “integrated” and “complex” tend to be unwanted design properties.
        KISS it!

      • Unfortunately the Dreamliner was not conceived, including design and manufacturing, around KISS principals.

        In recent years there has been an exponential growth in aircraft systems complexity, which of course has given us a higher level of safety. But because of that inevitable constraint the manufacturers should strive more than ever for simplicity wherever possible and desirable.

        Instead, Boeing chose all the risky routes at once. It was not only bold, it was also foolish.

  16. NEW YORK: US aerospace giant Boeing said Friday it will continue to use lithium-ion batteries, despite rival Airbus saying it would avoid them following two incidents on the Boeing 787.

    “Boeing is confident in the safety and reliability of lithium-ion batteries,” said Boeing spokesman Marc Birtel.

    “Our years of experience and deep expertise confirm that, like other technologies, when the appropriate battery, system and airplane protections are in place, lithium-ion batteries deliver significant benefits,” Birtel said.

    http://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/boeing-stands-by-lithium-ion-batteries-113021600064_1.html

    I don’t read to much in this. We have seen Boeing stand firmly behind schedules, only to have them stand firmly behind the next schedule shortly after.

  17. Business Standard (BS):

    – “Boeing is confident in the safety and reliability of lithium-ion batteries,” Boeing spokesman Marc Birtel said yesterday. “Our years of experience and deep expertise confirm that, like other technologies, when the appropriate battery, system and airplane protections are in place, lithium-ion batteries deliver significant benefits,” Birtel said.”

    Aviation Week (AW):

    – “Three years ago, FAA internal experts called for more testing of lithium-ion batteries and possible rule changes following an assessment of the emerging technology…”

    – “…FAA headquarters has not yet acted on the concerns, and by late Jan. 24 had not publicly explained why.”

    – “How these batteries will react in a fire situation and what type of fire hazard they pose themselves must be examined,” the FAA Fire Safety Team wrote in its January 2010 final report.”

    – “Tests must be performed to ensure the batteries provide an appropriate level of safety. Current regulatory and test requirements may need to be updated to address the hazards associated with this new technology.”

    – “Assembled at the request of Boeing in June 2006, special committee (SC) 211 comprised battery experts from a variety of manufacturers including GS Yuasa Corp., the provider of the 787’s lithium-ion batteries.”

    – “The group worked for two years to develop “minimum operational performance standards, or MOPS.”

    – “Headed by William Johnson, a proponent of lithium-ion batteries for military applications, and Hector Silberman, a battery expert at Boeing, the group delivered a list of consensus-based standards and the safety criteria the FAA ultimately used in the 787 battery special conditions finalized in October 2007.”

    – “Expert guidance to SC 211 came in part from the fire safety group at the Atlantic City Technical Center, where battery safety work—largely related to carriage of lithium-ion batteries as cargo—has been ongoing for years.”

    http://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/boeing-stands-by-lithium-ion-batteries-113021600064_1.html

    http://www.aviationweek.com/Article.aspx?id=/article-xml/AW_01_28_2013_p31-540569.xml&p=1

    Note:

    “BS” stands for Boeing Spin
    “AW” stands for Air Worthiness

  18. Essentially Airbus’ move leaves Boeing on its own regarding Li-Ion. I don’t think they can sustain that – if Airbus had stuck with things it would have been an industry issue for certification. Now it’s a one-company issue.

    • If Boeing wont do it on its own, the FAA will force it to switch to Ni-Cd. All the FAA is waiting for is a clear signal from the NTSB inquiry.

  19. The past relationship between FAA and Boeing will matter little when bureaucrats have careers at stake. Intestinal fortitude may well emerge at FAA and condemn Boeing to the inevitable long hard road of change which I believe NTSB will suggest.

    • I have the feeling the past relationship between FAA and Boeing will be on the table in the broader FAA review. Some early observations that started the review to start with, before the second battery went out of control.

      • If Boeing is still building B-787s in WA and SC, does that include initial “power on” and some ground tests with the engines operating, like taxi testing, etc.?

      • Initial PowerOn happens during assembly, doesn’t it?
        Looks like no further test runs at all (?), see http://nyc787.blogspot.com/
        go down to “Production and Flight Testing”

        What would be the upper limit for storing frames around Everett? Charleston should take longer to be maxed out.

      • Boeing can do everything but fly the 787s. And yes, so far there is no slowdown in production,

        They can probably fly out some other types (777s?) to another airfield for completion, but that will really not provide very much additional storage space at Everett.

  20. OV-099 :
    Well, Boeing knows that if they have to change to traditional nickel-cadmium batteries they can kiss goodbye to the grounding being lifted this year, since quite a few months of additional engineering work as well as re-certification by the FAA would be required. That’s why we’ll probably be seeing Boeing going all out in trying to convince the regulators that some sort of containment will be OK for now. Whether that will fly remains to be seen.

    They will get the containment beefed up and the aircraft flying soon in any case. They will probably do some redesign after that as a long term fix… that could be NiCd or it could be a different Li-ion design. I don’t think it would make much difference since long-term re-design is necessary either way.

    • Correct. Also, Boeing does not have to recertify the B-787, it already is certified. All they would need is a STC for any redesign of the electrical system.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.