CATL’s new battery technology could bring electric aircraft closer to reality

With the world gradually moving towards electric cars, it’s only a matter of time before electric vehicles take to the skies, at least for shorter trips. Moving ever closer to that milestone is Chinese battery maker CATL (Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Limited), which on Wednesday launched a battery at the Shanghai Auto Show that it claims can power electric passenger planes. The semi-solid state battery with condensed electrolyte has a density of up to 500 Wh/k, which means that it can store 500 Watt hours of energy for every kilogram of your weight.

The company says it can “achieve mass production of (the) condensed battery in a short period of time,” and hopes to begin mass production of an in-car-focused variant later this year. “The launch of this state-of-the-art technology breaks the limits that have long restricted the development of the battery sector and will open up a new electrification scenario focused on a high level of safety and lightness,” the CATL announcement stated. However, NASA has been testing electric planes for the past decade, and others are working on hybrid planes, like ZeroAvia’s hydrogen-electric plane that completed a 10-minute flight this January. Rolls-Royce even flew an all-electric plane at 387 MPH in a recent test.

CATL says it is working with anonymous partners to develop flying electric vehicles. “At present, CATL is cooperating with partners in developing electric passenger aircraft and practicing aviation-level standards and tests in accordance with aviation-grade quality and safety requirements,” the battery maker stated.

Additionally, CATL says it is working to improve the carbon footprint of its batteries and plans to achieve carbon neutrality for its manufacturing plants by 2025 and across the entire battery value chain by 2035. It plans to focus on mining, raw materials in bulk, battery materials, cells. Manufacturing and battery systems to achieve the goal. “As electrification spreads from the ground to the sky, aircraft will become cleaner and smarter,” the company stated. “The launch of condensed batteries will usher in an era of universal electrification of sea, land and air transport, open up more possibilities for the development of the industry and promote the achievement of global carbon neutrality targets at an earlier date. ”.

However, it is worth tempering our expectations about flying electric vehicles. Some movement in that direction could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the aviation industry, which accounts for about three percent of global emissions. But it would take more significant advances than CATL’s new battery for them to become a viable alternative to today’s jet fuel-powered aircraft. So while we may see some commercial electric planes take off in the next decade, don’t expect batteries to power much more than small, short-haul planes any time soon.

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