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Lux Research: Dreamliner should switch to safer batteries

Aircraft manufacturer Boeing did not choose the safest lithium-ion battery chemistry for its 787 Dreamliner, the aircraft that has been grounded because of potential risks from battery fires, a local research firm said Friday.

According to Lux Research, a strategic advice and intelligence firm headquartered in Boston, the batteries in the Dreamliner use a material known as lithium cobalt oxide, or LCO, and LCO does not resist overheating as well as other alternatives.

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“In choosing LCO, Boeing eschewed safer alternatives such as lithium iron phosphate,” Lux Research said in a press release.

A copy of Lux Research’s press release was e-mailed to a Boeing spokeswoman, who responded: “Safety is our highest priority. To suggest otherwise is inaccurate.”

As an analyst monitoring mobile energy issues, Cosmin Laslau has studied the electric-car market for Lux Research.

Laslau noted that electric-car manufacturers have moved away from the lithium-ion chemistry that the battery in the Dreamliner uses.

Boeing’s decision to use batteries with LCO is “all the more shocking considering major automakers early on refused to entertain the possibility of using LCO in passenger vehicles due to safety concerns,” Lux Research said.

Laslau added that he expects the US Federal Aviation Administration to tighten its regulations for aircraft that use lithium-ion batteries.

Earlier this week, the FAA grounded the Boeing 787 Dreamliner because of a potential battery fire risk, following an emergency landing of an All Nippon Airways 787 Wednesday caused by an malfunctioning battery. Just over a week earlier, a battery caught fire in an empty Japan Airlines 787 in Boston.

Chris Reidy can be reached at reidy@globe.com.
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