Boeing rival Airbus said today it still plans to use lithium ion batteries in its newest plane, the A350, but it’s designing a backup plan using different batteries if the lithium batteries prove too risky.
Aviation authorities around the world have grounded 50 in-service Boeing 787 Dreamliners after lithium ion batteries in two of those planes burned last month.
Airbus officials told reporters in Europe today that lithium ion batteries are still the first choice for Airbus’s new A350 airliner, but more conventional batteries could be used instead.
The A350 makes its first flight sometime this summer with first deliveries coming later in 2014.
Investigators in the U.S. and Japan have yet to find why the batteries in two Dreamliners malfunctioned. One fire happened in Boston after a Japan Air Lines Dreamliner just arrived from Tokyo had discharged its passengers. The other incident happened when an All Nippon Airways 787 was in the air over Japan. That plane made an emergency landing without incident.
The Dreamliner, designed to power many more of its basic systems with electricity than conventional airliners, is the first airliner to use the lithium batteries for its principal backup power. Airbus’s A380 uses a much smaller lithium battery to power minor systems.
Airbus said that if it uses a lithium ion battery in the A350, the battery will be produced by a different manufacturer and be of a different design than the one used in the Dreamliner.
Boeing has said it may introduce new features into the Dreamliner lithium battery including a larger separation between cells to prevent thermal runaways and a more rigid case.