Supplier of Boeing’s 787 batteries has new problem

This Jan. 17 photo shows the distorted main lithium-ion battery, left, and an undamaged auxiliary battery of an All Nippon Airways’ Boeing 787. The battery malfunction forced the plane’s flight crew to make an emergency landing on Jan. 16 in western Japan. (AP/Japan Transport Safety Board)

More problems have arisen for the supplier of the smoldering batteries that led to the grounding of Boeing Co.’s 787 fleet in January.

The New York Times is reporting that lithium-ion car batteries made by GS Yuasa have overheated in recent days.

GS Yuasa is a Japanese company that also supplies lithium-ion batteries for the 787 Dreamliner.

Mitsubishi Motors said Wednesday that a lithium-ion battery for its i-MiEV electric car caught fire at a plant on March 18, according to the report. In a separate incident on March 21, a battery in a plug-in hybrid Outlander car overheated and showed signs of melting.

No one was injured, but Mitsubishi Motors planned to halt production and sales of the cars.

“First, we need to clarify the cause,” said Ryugo Nakao, head of product and strategy development at Mitsubishi Motors.

While both are classified as lithium ion batteries, Nakao said in the Times report that the aircraft and automotive versions are “structurally different.” They also are made in different factories using different materials.

Boeing assembles the 787 in North Charleston and Everett, Wash. The plane has been grounded since January after a pair of smoky battery malfunctions that occurred in Boston and Japan.

Boeing is now testing a proposed fix, though it has not identified the root cause of the malfunctions.