EADS is leaving open the possibility of returning to lithium-ion batteries on the Airbus A350, once the uncertainties regarding the technology are resolved.

Airbus has switched to nickel-cadmium batteries, in the wake of the problems which grounded the Boeing 787 in January, to reduce the risk of delaying the programme.

EADS warned again, during its annual conference in Berlin, that there is "no room left" in the A350 schedule.

Chief executive Tom Enders says the switch to nickel-cadmium was a decision "taken out of prudence".

"We all know the root causes for the events on the 787 remain unknown," he says. "We have always had a 'plan B' because we knew this was new technology."

Enders says the company has an "obligation" to de-risk the programme. "I think we owe it to our customers," he says. "Quite a few airlines have commended us for this decision."

He says Airbus engineers remain "confident" that the lithium-ion batteries on the A350 - which are sourced from a different supplier than the 787's, use a different chemistry, and are located differently in the A350 - are safe.

Nickel-cadmium technology is "well-proven", he says. But he does "not exclude" the possibility of putting lithium-ion batteries back on the A350 "somewhere in the future" should the technology mature.

Enders says he does not expect a delay to the A350 as a result of the change.

"This is exactly why we've taken the decision now," he says. The weight difference is just 60kg, he points out: "That's one passenger. The risk-to-reward ratio is certainly intact."

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news