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Trial by fire: Boeing should have chosen a safer type of lithium-ion battery chemistry for its 787
Boeing uses high-energy batteries inherently at risk of thermal runaway, and should switch to an alternate type of lithium-ion battery, says Lux Research
BOSTON, MA – January 18, 2013 – Potential cost savings and more demanding electrical loads are pushing airliners like the Boeing 787 towards lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries. However, according to Lux Research, the type of Li-ion battery chemistry must be carefully chosen and well-managed. Failure to do so may result in serious safety issues. On January 7, a 787's Li-ion battery caught fire while the airplane was parked. Then, on January 16, another suspected 787 Li-ion fire forced an emergency landing.
The Li-ion batteries in question are supplied by Japanese battery manufacturer GS Yuasa. Lux Research analyzed the Boeing 787 battery specifications and found the following:
Boeing’s reputation has taken a major hit, and it must invest considerable funds to prove the safety of the aircraft to anxious regulators. Shortly after the incident, the FAA grounded all U.S. 787s, and started a review of the airplane. Furthermore, GS Yuasa has felt the ramifications of the widespread attention surrounding the 787, losing over 5% of its stock value in a single day.
The underlying cause of the Boeing fires is still unknown. Though there may be faults elsewhere in the system electronics, the fact remains that LCO is inherently at risk of undergoing thermal runaway, exacerbating problems that may arise elsewhere in the system. “Boeing made a design decision favoring higher energy over safer options, and is now paying the price,” said Cosmin Laslau, Lux Research Analyst.
About Lux Research
Lux Research provides strategic advice and ongoing intelligence for emerging technologies. Leaders in business, finance and government rely on us to help them make informed strategic decisions. Through our unique research approach focused on primary research and our extensive global network, we deliver insight, connections and competitive advantage to our clients. Visit www.luxresearchinc.com for more information.