Current-line ni-cad battery explored for A350

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Airbus is looking at the possibility of using a current-line nickel-cadmium battery from French supplier Saft Batteries for the A350 after backtracking on plans to use lithium-ion cells.

The airframer has opted to switch from lithium-ion technology in the twinjet to regular nickel-cadmium in the wake of the prolonged grounding of the Boeing 787.

"We understand that Airbus is currently evaluating whether an existing battery could be suitable," says Saft.

"It will, in any case, be the same [nickel-cadmium] technology whether it needs adapting or not."

Saft had been selected in 2008 to provide the lithium-ion batteries for the A350, an agreement which the company expected would be worth €200 million ($270 million) over 25 years.

The company already supplies conventional low-maintenance batteries to a wide range of airframes, including the Airbus A330 and A380.

Its A330 battery weighs some 35kg and contains 20 cells, while that for the A380 is heavier at 42kg.

While Saft has previously stated that lithium-ion technology enables the creation of lightweight battery systems which could save 40% in weight compared with a nickel-cadmium equivalent, the company says battery weight was "not a factor" in the Airbus decision.

Lithium-ion technology would have been used on the A350 to provide start-up and emergency lighting power.

Saft provides nickel-cadmium batteries for the Boeing 747-8 but Japanese supplier GS Yuasa provides the lithium-ion cells for the 787.