In an article I wrote back in February, I addressed the brand-new challenge that Boeing (BA) had with the lithium - ion battery problems in the 787 Dreamliner. Boeing has taken on the challenge of this battery because it likes the power that it puts out for its 787 airliner, and has decided against replacing it with the older tech knowledge cadmium nickel battery that are in so many airplanes presently. They have done a lot of research and have come up with what they consider a solution that they have presented to the FAA and now they're waiting on the it to make a decision as to whether or not they will allow the batteries to continue to be used on the airliner. Let's update ourselves on where we are because it will have an effect upon the stock price very soon.
Revisiting the lithium-ion battery problem that Boeing experienced not long ago, the Federal Aviation Administration is exploring whether the overheating of the batteries may present broader implications for the 787 airliner. Is there anything airlines or manufacturers can learn from this experience? This is a question being revisited. If you have any reference to the whole lithium-ion battery struggle, you might recall that in 2011 the same battery caught fire on a Cessna business jet. All the batteries were ordered to be replaced and they were within a week. There were no other conclusions besides this. Presently, since the battery problem happened on such an important airplane, the FAA is delving deeper into the matter. Another reason the FAA may be looking closer now is because they have come under criticism as critics stated that the agency could have applied or learned lessons from past incidents of this type of battery.
Evidently the Cessna incident was thought to have been caused by mishandling and misuse when the aircraft was in the maintenance hangar. But that particular battery is not the same as the battery in the 787. The NTSB has scheduled a hearing for the Boeing incident on April 23-24th.
Lithium-ion batteries are extremely powerful and growing in popularity. In the last 10 years the numbers of cells have grown from 800,000,000 to 4.4 billion. But these batteries remain a challenge to the industry as a whole because it has not been able to prevent what they call "internal short circuits" in the cells, nor do they know how to predict when it's going to happen. This is a problem, especially for airplanes.
Temporary Set back for Lithium-ion Battery?
As with the case of all potential problems with airliners, this battery incident is not taken lightly by Boeing either. The company has put together a 200 member team with the responsibility of ascertaining standards that could prevent further battery problems aboard the airliner. But this doesn't mean that the battery is going to be continued to be used in the airliner, even though it is very powerful, its use might be premature until these problems can be solved. Not only did Cessna replace its battery with older technology nickel cadmium, but Airbus is also going to use the nickel cadmium for its A350 jet so it doesn't have to worry about delays in bringing the plane to market because of battery problems. Boeing wants to stay with the lithium-ion battery.
We should know very soon whether the redesigned 787 battery system will be approved or not. The FAA is reviewing the tests submitted by Boeing and analyzing its information and when they are satisfied that the redesigned battery system meets FAA requirements they will give Boeing the go-ahead. I mentioned earlier that the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) is having a meeting next week but the FAA decision may not necessarily linked with the meeting next week even though the two are working together.