After grounding its fleet in January due to the fire risks posed by the new lithium-ion batteries used on board, the Boeing 787 Dreamliners have once again returned to the air.
The lithium-ion batteries were introduced as a lightweight power source, however, problems with overheating were quickly discovered, causing one plane to ground quickly, and another to burst into flames. In the laptop computer, and electric car industries lithium-ion batteries had similar overheating problems at first, but changes were quickly made to avoid these events, and now it is hoped that the airline industry will make similar improvements.
Richard Aboulafia, the vice president of analysis at Teal Group Corp, Claimed that “the chemistry of these batteries is changing. They can be made better. They still offer a powerful and economic solution. It’s just a question of getting the chemistry right and getting the system right.”
Whilst the industry waits for the improvements to be made, Boeing has implemented a series of modifications to offer a short term solution. These include; increasing the spacing between the battery cells to reduce the risk of overheating, and prevent a chain reaction occurring; and storing them in a strong, sealed case to minimise any damage should an overheat failure occur and the battery catch fire.
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Ray Conner, the resident and chief executive officer of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, stated that “this is a comprehensive and permanent solution with multiple layers of protection. The ultimate layer of protection is the new enclosure, which will ensure that even if a battery fails, there is no impact to the airplane and no possibility of fire. We have the right solution in hand, and we are ready to go.”
The first Boeing 787 Dreamliner took a load of passengers from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to Nairobi, Kenya in late April, and the first US flight left Houston for Chicago on Monday.
By. Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com
Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com