Northvolt working on batteries for electric aircraft
Stockholm-based vehicle battery producer Northvolt is developing batteries for electric aircraft in an effort to decarbonise commercial aviation.
Northvolt North America CEO Richard Wang said the company’s subsidiary, Cuberg, will oversee the aircraft battery development. Wang said the new battery would be an improvement to the conventional lithium-ion battery, which can only power test flights and demonstrations.
Lithium-ion batteries are suitable for all-electric passenger cars, powering them to more than 300 miles per charging session. However, these batteries are too heavy even for smaller passenger jetliners. According to Wang, Cuberg will produce lighter and denser lithium batteries to serve passenger and cargo flights.
Cuberg has developed an aviation module based on its existing 20 amp-hour lithium metal cells, which have a specific energy of 280 Wh per kilogram and an energy density of 320 Wh per litre. The startup has also built next-generation 20Ah battery cells with a specific energy of 405 Wh per kilogram. Wang said a 30 percent improvement in the battery’s energy per kilogram could enhance its effective range by 40 to 50 percent.
When Northvolt acquired Cuberg in 2021, the San-Francisco-based startup was already working on aircraft battery systems. Wang said the acquisition by Northvolt allowed Cuberg to use its parent company’s resources, expanding its opportunities in the battery-powered air travel market that could reach tens of billions of dollars in under ten years.
“Between our battery cell and battery systems people, we probably have perhaps the largest and best resourced aviation battery strategy in the world.”
Richard Wang, Northvolt North America CEO
Northvolt’s aircraft battery development plan aligns with the European Union’s plan to eliminate emissions from air travel. It already has potential target markets, including aircraft producers like Swedish hybrid-electric startup Heart Aerospace, which is working on an all-electric passenger aircraft, ES-30.
Northvolt’s primary market is presently the electric car industry. It has secured over $55 billion (approximately €50 billion) of contracts from major car manufacturers like Volvo Cars and Polestar. Recently, the company announced a partnership with Södertälje-based truck maker Scania to develop a battery cell that can last a truck’s lifetime.
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