Boeing: No plans to drop lithium-ion batteries on Dreamliner

SEATTLE - Boeing officials said Friday the company is sticking with lithium-ion batteries on the 787 Dreamliner, despite an announcement that its competitor Airbus is abandoning the trouble-prone battery for its new A350 airplanes.

Airbus said Thursday it would revert to conventional nickel-cadmium batteries for the A350. The plane is a wide-body long-range jet rival to the 787 and is expected to make its first flight around the middle of the year.

Lithium batteries are lighter and can store more energy than other types of batteries of an equivalent size, and manufacturers view them as an important way to save on fuel costs.

But the batteries are also more likely to short circuit and start a fire than other batteries if they are damaged, if there is a manufacturing flaw or if they are exposed to excessive heat.

Federal officials grounded the 787 last month because of problems with its lithium-ion batteries that caused a fire on one jetliner and forced another plane to make an emergency landing.

Despite those incidents, Boeing officials said they are "confident in the safety and reliability of lithium-ion batteries."

"Our years of experience and deep expertise confirm that, like other technologies, when the appropriate battery, system and airplane protections are in place, lithium-ion batteries deliver significant benefits," Boeing spokesman Marc Birtel said in a prepared statement.

"We are deeply involved with the appropriate investigation authorities in developing a full understanding of two recent battery events on 787s and are working tirelessly to create the solutions that will allow the 787 fleet to return to full flight status. There's nothing we've learned in the investigations that would lead us to a different decision regarding lithium-ion batteries," he said.

By contrast, Airbus said it is abandoning plans to use lithium-ion batteries because the source of problems remains unclear.

Airbus decided to make the switch "to optimize program certainty," spokeswoman Mary Anne Greczyn said.

Airbus is a unit of Netherlands-based EADS NV.