Big leap in electric aviation expected in 2030s, but more R&D is needed

Author: Gabriel Jorby.

September 22 (Renewables Now) - The next decade will see a global race to commercialise electric aviation, a new white paper says and describes what is needed, in terms of battery performance and R&D, to speed up the commercialisation of electric propulsion.

Electric propulsion offers advantages such as reduced fuel and maintenance costs, less noise and lower air pollution and unique aircraft designs.

The white paper has been released by the Argonne Collaborative Center for Energy Storage Science (ACCESS). The table below contains the key findings for different segments of the future electric aviation market.

Segment Efforts
Air taxis and 20-passenger commuter aircraft Next-generation lithium-ion chemistries (e.g., silicon, advanced cathode, lithium-metal) need to be evaluated under aviation conditions. Failure modes and safety need to be examined.
50-passenger regional jets R&D in solid-state batteries needs to be augmented to explore new designs, manufacturing approaches and high temperature operation.
737 class aircraft High-energy systems, including sulfur-based batteries and hydrogen carriers, beyond those currently in the R&D pipeline, need to be studied.

In the near-term, adapting lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries to serve the needs of short-range aircraft concepts will be possible for initial market introduction. The further improvement in battery performance and research into advanced chemistries for aviation-specific needs would be crucial for the continued electrification and expansion of the electrified aircraft. According to the white paper, electrifying large regional and 737-class aircrafts requires new types of energy storage technologies.

Already, companies like Boeing, Airbus, GE and Embraer are making significant investments in “the next era of aviation” and automotive companies such as Daimler, Toyota, Hyundai and Porsche, are chipping into startups focusing on electric aviation.

“The white paper findings provide a framework for the development of an investment strategy by the government agencies for battery technologies specific to electric aviation beyond the current level of investment in the automotive sector,” commented Ajay Misra, deputy director of Research and Engineering at NASA Glenn Research Center. This centre, together with the Argonne National Laboratory, the DOE’s Vehicle Technologies Office (VTO) and other experts are involved in projects to support the take off of electric aviation.

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Browse all articles from Tsvetomira Tsanova

Tsvet has been following the development of the global renewable energy industry for almost nine years. She's got a soft spot for emerging markets.

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