Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk says the batteries that have burst into flame on Boeing’s new Dreamliners are “fundamentally unsafe.”
Musk’s electric car company, Tesla, specifically designed its batteries to prevent this problem.
In an email to the aviation publication Flightglobal, Musk said the following:
“Unfortunately, the pack architecture supplied to Boeing is inherently unsafe. 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.”
Flightglobal’s Zach Rosenberg explains this in more detail:
Both Boeing and Tesla use batteries fuelled by lithium cobalt oxide, which is among the most energy-dense and flammable chemistries of lithium-ion batteries on the market. While Boeing elected to use a battery with a grouping of eight large cells, Tesla’s batteries contain thousands of smaller cells that are independently separated to prevent fire in a single cell from harming the surrounding ones.
“Moreover, when thermal runaway occurs with a big cell, a proportionately larger amount of energy is released and it is very difficult to prevent that energy from then heating up the neighbouring cells and causing a domino effect that results in the entire pack catching fire,” says Musk.
“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. It is much harder to maintain an even temperature in a large cell, as the distance from the centre of the cell to the edge is much greater, which increases the risk of thermal runaway.”
Musk has offered to help Boeing fix the battery problem, and his offer has been rebuffed.
A professor of electrical engineering at MIT confirmed to Flightglobal that Musk’s assessment of Boeing’s batteries is sound.
Meanwhile, 787s remain grounded, and there’s no word on when they may be allowed to fly again.
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