Fire “cannot occur” in revamped 787 battery

The new encased battery
The new encased battery

Boeing has assured airlines and passengers that its redesigned B787 Dreamliner batteries will not catch fire.

Detailing the battery changes and current testing process, Boeing said that it has subjected the lithium-ion battery cases to a series of fire tests, including the addition of flammable gas, but it was now confident that “fire cannot occur within the new enclosure”.

“We put this new design through a rigorous set of tests. We tried to find a way to introduce a fire in the containment but it just wouldn’t happen. Even when we introduced a flammable gas in the presence of an ignition source, the absence of oxygen meant there was no fire,” said Mike Sinnett, Boeing’s chief project engineer for the 787.

The solution includes the addition of a new stainless steel enclosure for the battery, which is designed to isolate the battery from the rest of the aircraft’s electronic equipment. The enclosure also features a vent to carry battery vapours outside the aircraft. Other improvements have been made to the inside of the battery, including insulating each of the battery cells and reducing charging levels.

The batteries will continue undergoing tests until the FAA provides the regulatory approvals necessary for the aircraft to resume commercial flights.

All B787 Dreamliners have been grounded since 17 January 2013 due to problems with the lithium-ion batteries, which were believed to be overheating.

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