Northvolt & Cuberg Unveil Batteries Designed For Electrical Plane

In 2015, Cuberb was based in San Leandro, California, by Richard Wang to commercialize its lithium metallic cell expertise. The Cuberg battery presents a considerably larger cost density than a traditional lithium-ion battery. In line with ArsTechnica, most of the lithium-ion batteries at present accessible have energy densities of roughly 270 Wh/kg. In contrast, a Cuberg pouch cell has been proven in testing to supply 380 Wh/kg, a achieve of 40%. When an unbiased lab positioned the battery on a cycle of 1 hour discharges and two hours of charging, it discovered the battery took over 670 cycles for its capability to drop to 80% of its authentic. By comparability, many lithium-ion batteries goal a 500-cycle life span.

In 2021, Cuberg was acquired by Northvolt to be able to scale up the expertise. At the moment, Northvolt CEO Peter Carlsson stated, “The Cuberg staff has proven distinctive potential to develop world class expertise, confirmed outcomes and an impressive buyer base in a lean and environment friendly group. Combining these strengths with the capabilities and expertise of Northvolt permits us to make vital enhancements in each efficiency and security whereas driving down value even additional for next-generation battery cells. That is vital for accelerating the shift to completely electrical automobiles and responding to the wants of the main automotive firms inside a related time-frame.”

Battery Price, Vitality, & Weight

As we speak, Cuberg batteries value greater than the lithium-ion batteries utilized in most electrical vehicles, however worth isn’t the whole lot. Two of the first benefits of lithium metallic expertise are excessive power density and low weight. Regulators within the US and Europe require strong fireplace suppression programs to be able to approve new applied sciences to be used in plane. These programs add weight, which implies batteries which have a excessive power to weight ratio are vital to advancing the purpose of constructing battery powered plane which can be licensed for business service.

“If you add all the protection programs to truly move the complete scope of certification, you find yourself with a lithium ion battery that’s so heavy that a lot of the form of ranges that these firms wish to make are usually not suitable with present technology battery expertise,” Wang advised Ars Technica. As manufacturing of the Cuberb lithium metallic batteries ramps up, because of the flexibility to scale offered by Northvolt, the price of the batteries will inevitably lower, making them much more engaging to plane producers.

In a current press launch, Peter Carlsson stated, “Northvolt is establishing itself as a number one international supplier of sustainable battery cells for the automotive section in addition to full battery programs for the heavy industrial and power storage markets. With our aviation programs program, we are going to leverage Cuberg’s subsequent technology lithium metallic cell expertise along with our battery manufacturing expertise to carry finish to finish power options to the skies.”

Since final yr, Cuberg has made vital advances towards a completely built-in battery system. First, it has developed a 20 Ah commercial-format lithium metallic pouch cell with a particular power of 405 Wh/kg, which has been shipped to clients worldwide. Second, it has engineered and produced an aviation module, primarily based round its 20 Ah lithium metallic cells, with a particular power of 280 Wh/kg and an power density of 320 Wh/L. Third, the Cuberg lithium metallic module platform has achieved passive propagation resistance throughout a thermal runaway verification check marketing campaign, a key step in certification of aviation battery programs.

Cleansing Up Business Aviation

Richard Wang, Cuberg CEO, commented, “The aviation trade is pursuing cleaner types of power and propulsion, however plane producers are held again by the burden and immaturity of aviation-certifiable lithium-ion battery programs. With this new program, we are going to construct certifiable battery programs enabling vastly enhanced plane efficiency and ship a trusted end-to-end resolution backed by one of many world’s preeminent battery producers.”

Cuberg expertise makes use of a lithium metallic anode and proprietary liquid electrolyte to concurrently remedy the interlocking challenges of battery efficiency and manufacturability. Whereas incumbent battery applied sciences, corresponding to lithium-ion, will be too heavy and low performing to be used in plane, Cuberg’s battery cells are light-weight and excessive efficiency. The expertise can be suitable with trade normal manufacturing strategies, enabling scalability, reliability, and traceability throughout the worth chain.

Cuberg Targets Electrical Flight

This week, Cuberg stated its module expertise will be custom-made for every buyer and gives efficiency metrics on particular power and power density that lead the trade. It made the next related battery metrics public for the primary time.

• Mass: 16.4 kg
• Measurement: 95mm x 280mm x 540 mm
• Rated power: 4.6 kWh
• Vitality density: 320 Wh/L
• Particular power: 280 Wh/kg

The corporate says plane producers might be particularly within the particular power of the Cuberg module. At 280 Wh/kg, it’s as much as 40% larger than comparable modules primarily based on lithium-ion expertise. This vital enchancment interprets into elevated flight vary, which in flip allows new use circumstances for electrical and hybrid aviation. Some operators may see their sensible vary greater than double, relying on their plane and powertrain design. Cuberg says it’s going to ship modules to pick aviation clients all through 2023.

Unpacking The Specifics

Common readers know my mind begins to soften every time items of measure begin flying round. I recall a current story about CATL claiming it had a developed a brand new “condensed matter” battery with an power density of 500 Wh/kg that it thought can be of explicit curiosity to the plane trade. I used to be notably confused by the distinction between particular power and power density, so I reached out to Wes Andrews at Cuberg for assist. I obtained again an in depth rationalization that’s so good, it deserves to be shared in its entirety.

Electrical airplanes want plenty of energy to take off, much less energy to coast, and probably plenty of energy once more to land. Plane producers need this energy with out sacrificing weight. Each gram taken up by a battery is a gram not accessible for passengers or cargo. That’s why the trade is so targeted on particular power.

Particular power is expressed in Watt-hours per kilogram (Wh/kg). This can be a measure of power per mass which instantly implies power by weight. It solutions the query: what number of grams of battery does it take to make the airplane fly?

Vitality density is expressed in Watt-hours per liter (Wh/L). This can be a measure of power by quantity. It solutions the query: how a lot bodily house does this battery occupy to make the airplane fly?

Cuberg expertise packs extra power right into a lighter weight and smaller house than mainstream lithium ion expertise. Our batteries are “high-performance” because of their wonderful particular power and power density metrics.

Subsequent, it’s necessary to grasp that once we speak about an EV battery — the factor that you simply see whenever you “pop the hood” — what we’re truly speaking about is a battery system. That system is made up of many alternative applied sciences, all of which can have totally different efficiency metrics. Which will be complicated!

Cuberg’s core expertise is our battery cell. It has particular power of 405 Wh/kg. It’s about as huge as {a magazine} folded in thirds. (See featured picture above.)

Cells are assembled into modules. A module can have anyplace from 20 to 80 cells inside, relying on many components (we aren’t disclosing the variety of cells in our module). Our module has particular power of 280 Wh/kg. You’ll discover that the module quantity is smaller than the cell quantity; that is regular. Module packaging and design can be itself essential — it’s chargeable for guaranteeing dependable and protected operation, even when a battery cell catches on fireplace throughout flight, because the FAA requires firms to display throughout certification.


Cuberg Aviation Module

Modules are then assembled into packs; packs are then built-in right into a full system; the system interfaces with the expertise within the plane. That is the inflection level the place Cuberg expertise begins to mix with expertise from the plane producer. Our battery system program has a transparent path to reaching 350 Wh/kg. You’ll discover that is larger than our present module — it’s a purpose that features successive generational product releases.

In abstract, our battery cell and module right now submit efficiency at 405 and 280 Wh/kg, respectively. As we successively iterate each the cell and module designs, we migrate cell efficiency from 405 to 450 Wh/kg, and module efficiency from 280 to 350 Wh/kg, as we go into certification.

This development from subsequent technology cell, to module, to pack, to system, is known as the “commercialization journey”, which is business-speak for bringing expertise out of the lab and into worthwhile real-world use.

Cuberg is an efficient distance down the commercialization journey. We’re the one identified superior cell firm pursuing a full battery system technique for aviation. Different startups have superior cells, however not a strong aviation program. Nonetheless different firms have an aviation program, however this system relies on lithium ion cells, which we contemplate basically insufficient for the power-intensive wants of plane.

CATL has introduced a sophisticated cell with particular power *as much as* 500 Wh/kg. If you happen to’re making an apples to apples comparability with Cuberg tech, you’ll put that non-specific determine alongside our customer-validated 405 Wh/kg cell that has already been shipped to clients worldwide.

CATL has not introduced an aviation programs program or any steps down the commercialization journey that may examine apples to apples with our module and programs designs. Additionally they didn’t present particulars on expertise strategy, energy functionality, or cycle life, which I haven’t dug into on this electronic mail however are essential for aviation.

On a enterprise degree, CATL’s curiosity within the electrical aviation market is a powerful sign. Electrical aviation has the potential to cut back greenhouse gasoline emissions, revitalize regional aviation, and profit entrance line communities who dwell or work close to airports. For extra context on electrical aviation, I like to recommend the Goal True Zero report by the World Financial Discussion board, and McKinsey’s Future Air Mobility weblog.

That’s far and away the perfect response I’ve ever gotten from a producer, and I’m grateful to Wes for taking the time to share that data. Hopefully, it’s going to permit our CleanTechnica readers to have a deeper understanding of what lies forward for battery-powered flight and the way firms like Cuberg intend to make electrical plane a actuality.


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