Tesla's Elon Musk Says Boeing 787 Batteries Are Inherently Unsafe


  • Boeing 787 Picture

    Boeing 787 Picture

    Tesla's Elon Musk is one of many experts trying to get to the bottom of problems with the Boeing 787. | January 30, 2013

Just the Facts:
  • Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, says the lithium-ion batteries installed on the Boeing 787 are "inherently unsafe."
  • Musk has offered to help find a solution to the problems on the new Boeing 787 airliner.
  • Boeing told Edmunds on Wednesday that the lithium-ion batteries were selected "after a careful review of available alternatives because they best met the performance and design objectives of the 787. Based on everything we know at this point, we have not changed our evaluation."

PALO ALTO, California — Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, says the lithium-ion batteries installed on the Boeing 787 are "inherently unsafe," in an e-mailed message to Flightglobal.

Musk has offered — as an outside expert — to help find a solution to the problems on the new Boeing 787 airliner.

Boeing told Edmunds on Wednesday that the lithium-ion batteries were selected "after a careful review of available alternatives because they best met the performance and design objectives of the 787. Based on everything we know at this point, we have not changed our evaluation."

"We are supporting investigations that will determine the cause of the recent incidents," wrote Marc Birtel, a Boeing spokesman in response to an e-mailed query from Edmunds. "Until those investigations conclude, we can't speculate on what the results might be."

Musk tweeted his remarks to Flightglobal on Wednesday.

"Unfortunately, the pack architecture supplied to Boeing is inherently unsafe," Musk wrote. "Large cells without enough space between them to isolate against the cell-to-cell thermal domino effect means it is simply a matter of time before there are more incidents of this nature."

Musk added: "They (Boeing) believe they have this under control, although I think there is a fundamental safety issue with the architecture of a pack with large cells."

Earlier, Boeing confirmed it is using outside experts to help in the investigation of two recent 787 incidents, including one in which a battery on a Boeing 787 burst into flames in Boston. But the company said it would not identify the outside experts by name.

"We are engaged with a number of experts, both inside and outside the company, in resolving the issue and returning the 787 fleet to flight status," Birtel told Edmunds. "However, we are not identifying them by name publicly."

Boeing and Tesla use batteries fueled by lithium cobalt oxide.

Musk, who has a physics degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a business degree from Wharton, created a buzz when he issued the following tweet on January 26: "Desire to help Boeing is real & am corresponding with 787 chief engineer."

Edmunds says: The fleet of Boeing 787s remains grounded as experts, including Musk, search diligently to get to the bottom of things.

Comments

  • kafantaris kafantaris Posts:

    Since large lithium batteries are a headache -- if not inherently dangerous -- we have to look at alternatives. One is to go back to the heavier nickel-cadmium batteries. Another is to use fuel cells. Fuel cells are now used in warehouse lifts and they supply unattended backup power to cell towers. Why not use them in commercial airplanes? They have proved reliable for over a decade in our space Shuttle. http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/shuttle/reference/shutref/orbiter/eps/pwrplants.html What about cost? With $16,000 for a lithium battery, cost is relative. Moreover, fuel cells are now a sixth of what they were five years ago. What about the Hindenburg? Those flames etched in our minds came from the fresh paint on the tarp. Hydrogen itself burns colorless, last about a second, and the flames go straight up. But where would we store the hydrogen? In tanks of the type now used in fuel cell cars -- and they can be refilled every time the plane refuels. Or we could go with low pressure, though heavier, metal hydride tanks. This could eventually lead to our use of hydrides as artificial muscles -- to operate the plane's wings, brakes and landing gear. Metal hydrides can do this easily by us merely changing the current of the heating element inside the tank. http://news.discovery.com/tech/biotechnology/artificial-muscle-hydrogen-artificial.htm

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