Electric planes get big boost as leading battery maker unveils aviation division

Tesla supplier CATL achieved ‘holy grail’ of energy density required for commercial electric aircraft earlier this year

Anthony Cuthbertson
Monday 24 July 2023 18:03 BST
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<p>Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL) unveiled a condensed battery for electric aircraft on 19 April, 2023</p>

Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL) unveiled a condensed battery for electric aircraft on 19 April, 2023

China’s largest battery maker for electric vehicles has launched an aviation division in preparation to begin mass production of electric planes, according to reports.

Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL), which supplies batteries for Tesla, claims to have achieved the “holy grail” energy density required for commercial electric aircraft of 500 Watt-hours per kilogram (Wh/kg).

The company announced the feat at the Auto Shanghai trade fair earlier this year, with chief scientist Wu Kai claiming that it was poised to begin production of a commercially viable battery for electric aircraft.

“With an energy density of up to 500Wh/kg, it can achieve a high energy density and a high level of safety at the same time in a creative manner, opening up a brand-new electrification scenario of passenger aircrafts,” the company said in a statement at the time.

“CATL can achieve mass production of condensed battery for electric vehicles in a short period of time.”

CATL has now launched a joint venture with state-owned plane manufacturer Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC), Yicai Global reported, following four years of research into the technology.

The advent of electric aircraft has become a realistic prospect in recent years following several major battery breakthroughs that have the potential to overcome cost and capacity limitations.

Israel-based startup Eviation completed the first flight of an electric commuter plane last year, taking off from an airport in Washington before touching down eight minutes later.

The Alice aircraft is capable of transporting nine passengers and their luggage, or a tonne of cargo, and has been hailed as the first battery-powered plane viable for short-haul commercial journeys of up to 645km (400 miles).

Regional airlines and logistics firms in the US have already ordered more than 200 Alice planes, with Eviation aiming to fulfil the orders by 2026.

The Independent has contacted CATL for a production timeframe of its electric plane batteries.

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