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Airbus to drop A350 ni-cad battery once lithium certified

Airbus will no longer offer the nickel-cadmium battery for the A350 once the lithium battery version receives certification.

The airframer expects to secure certification in time to switch all A350 production to a line-fit lithium battery standard in 2016.

“Thereafter we won’t offer the nickel-cadmium design for the main battery,” it says.

Airbus has secured approval for the A350 in its nickel-cadmium configuration and early aircraft will feature this electrical architecture.

The airframer expects to deliver the first A350-900 to Qatar Airways within weeks and achieve production rates of around three aircraft per month from early next year. This will increase to five by the end of 2015.

While Airbus has not indicated the number of aircraft which will be fitted with nickel-cadmium batteries, the production ramp-up figures suggest the total could be fewer than 100 depending on the speed of lithium-battery certification.

“We are confident that we will certify the lithium-ion solution in the near future,” says Airbus, adding that it will be the A350 standard from 2016.

The airframer acknowledges that some customers, particularly those with large orders, could end up operating A350s with both battery types.

“We will offer to those customers who have already take delivery of nickel-cadmium to upgrade to lithium-ion,” it says. “We are working on a retrofit plan which will soon be finalised.”

Airbus says the retrofit will give customers a single part number across the fleet and that technicians will be able to accomplish the change “seamlessly” during a planned maintenance visit.

Four of the five A350 test aircraft have flown with lithium batteries. Only MSN5, as the certification standard aircraft, has been operated solely with nickel-cadmium.

The lighter lithium battery will save weight equivalent to a single passenger.

Airbus insists that its lithium solution is “absolutely” safe and it does not expect customers’ perceptions to be affected by the problems encountered by the Boeing 787. Nor does the airframer foresee any customers with the lithium batteries requesting a retrofit to nickel-cadmium cells.

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