Thoughts about the Boeing Battery

Friday, January 25, 2013
By George Hatcher

It’s no surprise that the FAA has no crystal ball and can’t tell us when the 787 is flying again.

Is Boeing going to switch out Battery systems? Are they wasting time trying to qualify the problematic lithium-ion system they have when they could switch to a different technology? Is it cost prohibitive to switch systems temporarily while Boeing works the kinks out of a system they seem to want to keep?

Cessna confirms that it intends to requalify lithium-ion batteries. It means that they are going to keep using them–but we do agree with their determination to REQUALIFY them. Let us not forget that Cessna issued an emergency recall of the CJ4+ Citation Jet lithium-ion batteries when they suffered a fire in late 2011. Their airworthiness directive required CJ4+ operators to replace the lithium-ion batteries within 10 flight hours. The company that produced the Cessna batteries, A123 Systems, went out of business. Maybe Cessna should go talk to Boeing about their findings.

The investigation of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner battery that caught fire in Boston is that two things have been found:

thermal runaway (a cycle where temperature goes up causing it to go up more) If the electrolyte catches on fire it can self-sustain.

short-circuit (unintended contact of components and consequent accidental diversion of the current)

The Boston event battery suffered both.

Now the question is which one is the chicken, and which one is the egg. Which came first? And they still haven’t figured out why. And did both failed batteries come from the same batch of batteries?

The lithium cobalt oxide battery chemistry Boeing uses is considered less safe than lithium manganese oxide and lithium iron phosphate chemistry.

Was the whole battery system a mistake? It was, according to whistleblower Michael Leon who we mentioned in Battery Buzz wrote a report (2006) saying that the battery technology was risky and that substitute battery technology should be used on the 787.

Now the NTSB is going to point fingers at the FAA for certifying what may be a problem.


And video from the whistleblower:

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