Debates Over Lithium-ion Batteries in Submarines

June 8, 2011 - via Aviation Week

Lithium-ion batteries would seem to be the answer to increasing submarines' availability for missions. The technology is ready for application, lithium-ion batteries increase endurance of the submarine from 50% to 400%, they cut the indiscretion rate by 20%, they allow maximum speed whatever the charge, they are totally maintenance free and they allow for maintenance cycles to be stretched to every 10 or 15 years. So says Manfred Klein, senior vice president, project development and R&D at Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (HDW).

But Dino Argiropoulos, the expert for submarine and defense batteries at Sunlight, one of the leading battery manufacturers, somewhat surprisingly doesn't agree.

He told me at the UDT show this afternoon that lithium-ion batteries could not simply be fitted into existing submarines and that the cost of modifying these submarines to be able to use lithium-ion batteries was prohibitive. The reasons: all the electrical installation and switching gear would need to be changed together with the prime mover motor because of the lithium-ion batteries' higher voltage and redundant safety electronics would need to be introduced for the lithium which is not a very stable material.

So, these batteries are fine on new-build submarines but not worth modifying existing ones, it would seem.

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Author:Christina Mackenzie