Nothing fishy. In aerospace, it's normal to have primes and subs. From what I saw on the Thales web site, they were the prime contractor on the power conversion & battery system, and Securaplane was a sub-contractor that provided the integrated battery system -- battery, charger and battery management unit. It appears that GS Yuasa provided the actual lithium ion cells (LiPO4), perhaps as a sub to Securaplane, but that last point isn't completely clear.
There is something fishy about the details in this story. According to the NTSB's own website, there are two pictures of the damaged battery and one picture of an undamaged battery (see here):
If you zoom into the undamaged battery picture, you can clearly see that it was manufactured by a French company called Thales (where they boast about being the first to deploy this technology on the B787):
Both undamaged and damaged battery appear to be identical in dimensions, color, and decal location.
According to the story above, the battery system is provided by a company called Meggitt/Securaplane and the battery charger schematic (shown above) looks completely different than the one shown on the NTSB website. Why the discrepancy about the real battery manufacturer?
If this is designed improperly or to close to the margins...not good
If the power cycle confuses the algorithm for the timer...not good
If Boeing took at a ground wire out to save weight and lightning strikes create 100's to 100's of differential voltage across the fuslage reverse biasing FETS in contol paths (that are grounded at differennt points than the battery, this can reverse feedcurrent into battery without any way to control it...Not good
I have a friend that worked at Securaplane and he witnessed one of these battery systems catch fire and burn down the building he was working in. Seems nothing was reported on the incident - perhaps a cover-up?
The latest public statement from the Japan Transport Safety Board says the battery did not experience overvoltage, but rather, a sharp and unexpected drop in voltage. So no evidence of overcharging, but perhaps over-discharging into a hard short for a period of time. Hopefully they can quickly get to the root cause.
I work with two way radios,all use now Li batteries,I do not think there is an overcharging problem, all this batteries, have a small protection PCB inside, that drains 4 uA. This PCB limits the charging and discharge current to safe limits, and it also controls the voltage allowed to reach the battery. But I did received once a radio case with a burned battery that was not in use. The only explanation is the failure of internal parts, that shorted BOTH sides of the battery. To limit this problem, all shipments by plane today limit the battery capacity to a safe 30% level. This is new technology, and those who lead, take a risk.
Except for the words "lithium" and "fire" there is no similarity to the single Volt issue last year. In that case the battery pack was intentionally damaged by smashing it into a steel beam and leaving it for a week. They speculate that current through the leaked coolant caused the fire.
If you want to make a comparison without facts a better one is the lithium laptop batteries that were spontaneously catching fire and exploding a couple years ago.
NASA's Orion Flight Software Production Systems Manager Darrel G. Raines joins Planet Analog Editor Steve Taranovich and Embedded.com Editor Max Maxfield to talk about embedded flight software used in Orion Spacecraft, part of NASA's Mars mission. Live radio show and live chat. Get your questions ready.
Brought to you by