Airbus is dropping the lithium-ion batteries it had planned to use in its new A350 XWB passenger jet, in favor of a more proven alternative, it announced today.
The lithium-ion batteries that competitor Boeing uses in its Dreamliner jet are at the center of ongoing investigations into the safety of the plane, after two fires on different aircraft last month.
The 50 Dreamliners Boeing has delivered so far have been grounded since January 16, and the planemaker has warned airlines it will likely miss deliveries of the new jet, a financial blow.
The potential need for Airbus to change how it uses lithium-ion batteries, depending on investigators' findings, could lead to its own production delays.
Looking to avoid the problem, Airbus has activated "Plan B," to use "proven and mastered" nickel cadmium batteries. The change will not affect how the aircraft operates, a spokesperson said.
The A350 is designed to compete with the fuel efficient Dreamliner, and is an important aircraft for Airbus, which has invested $15 billion in a Toulouse assembly factory.
Lithium-ion batteries, which had never been used in passenger aircraft before the Dreamliner, generate more power than other batteries, allowing for a lighter, more fuel efficient plane.
The NHTSA investigation into the January fire in a parked Dreamliner jet in Boston has found it was sparked by a fault in the battery, but the root cause — and solution — remain mysteries.
Airbus has not given up on lithium-ion technology altogether, it said. It will continue to study the technology, and take into accounts the findings of the ongoing investigations.
But for now, it is saying better safe than sorry.
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