Lithium-ion batteries may have had bad press because of the battery issues that grounded the fleet earlier this year, but Wichita, Kan.-based True Blue Power is determined to reverse all that by offering a new version of the same low-weight, high-power-density technology for general and business aviation.
“Every pound is worth a lot,” says True Blue Power’s president and CEO, Todd Winter. A division of the Mid-Continent Instrument Company, True Blue plans to offer two main battery options to fixed- and rotary-wing turbine operators starting later this quarter. Both batteries produce a nominal charge voltage 28 VDC and a nominal output voltage 26.4 VDC, with the smaller TB17 sized for 17 ampere hours and the larger TB44 for 44 ampere hours.
True Blue is, however, conscious of the need to educate the wider general aviation community about the technology, particularly in the wake of the 787 events and the recent decisions of business aircraft makers Gulfstream andto return to more traditional batteries for the G650 and CJ4, respectively. Having originally planned to use lithium-ion, both reversed course following a November 2011 emergency airworthiness directive involving a thermal runaway and fire in a CJ4 battery on the ground. Both Cessna and Gulfstream say they may revisit lithium-ion battery technologies in the future. Some like , however, still continue to plan for lithium-ion batteries on the new Legacy 500 and 450 business jets, slated for entry into service in late 2013 and 2014, respectively.
To clarify the benefits of lithium-ion, and to dispel doubts about its safety, True Blue is therefore “launching a lithium-ion battery 101,” says Winter. “There’s a lot of talk, and although there are a lot used in aircraft today, people have questions about what they are and what they need to know about them. There’s a lot to know about different chemistries and installations. There are a lot of plusses and minuses, but we all know how much electrification of aircraft is going on, and it all takes power. If we can provide three times the energy density per pound, it makes that possible.” Winter adds that 13 seminars are planned, four of them outside the U.S.
Brett Williams, director of engineering, says the True Blue battery concept is significantly different from the G S Yuasa-made unit developed for the 787. “That is a 75-ampere-hours battery so is significantly larger. It is also based on lithium cobalt, whereas ours is a Nanophosphate lithium-ion. The other battery uses eight large cells, while ours uses smaller round cells. In the case of the TB44 there are 152 in the battery pack.”
Williams adds that the lessons learned in theevent had already been incorporated into the True Blue design, which was tested and developed in conjunction with A123 Systems, founded in 2001. Michigan-based A123’s proprietary Nanophosphate technology was based on nanoscale materials initially developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.