Can Tesla Fix Boeing's Battery Problem?


Elon Musk has offered to help Boeing fix the battery issues facing the 787 Dreamliner. It's a strange pairing, the CEO of an auto company and an aviation giant, but it may not be as crazy as it seems on the surface.

Tesla to the rescue
Why would Musk offer Tesla Motors' expertise to Boeing? The answer is simple -- publicity.

If the relatively tiny Tesla can even be associated with the fix of Boeing's battery issues it would be a public relations coup for Musk. But for Boeing, he may be able to offer some real solutions.

Tesla went through years of challenges designing the battery pack that would power both the Tesla Roadster and the Model S. The automobile may be the most demanding use of a large lithium-ion battery pack in the world, the same technology Boeing is using.

Musk decided to use a standard "18650" cell, like the ones used in consumer electronics, instead of the large format cells used by the Nissan LEAF and other electric vehicles. But look at the success of Tesla's vehicles and it's easy to argue that Musk made the right decision. Maybe he can offer some insight to Boeing?

Tesla also has seemed to have mastered the control system driving the electric battery. After battery maker GS Yuasa Corp.was cleared by regulators yesterday, the control system has become the focus of the investigation.

Tesla and Musk learned a lot about lithium-ion batteries in developing vehicles, but they also relied on battery partners who would be able to help Boeing. Panasonic got the contract to build cells for Tesla vehicles and could be a key resource as well.

All the help it can get
Boeing has had years to get the 787 Dreamliner right and this battery problem has left its entire fleet grounded, costing an estimated $550 million. Musk says he's talked to the lead engineer about lending a hand. Right now, Boeing needs all the help it can get.

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Fool contributor Travis Hoium has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Tesla Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of Tesla Motors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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