Swedish battery manufacturer Northvolt is taking its technology to the skies, announcing a new program surrounding lightweight, energy-dense lithium metal cells and modules to support electric aviation. The electric plane battery development is already underway through Northvolt’s subsidiary Cuberg, which has some milestones to share.
Northvolt was founded by two former Tesla executives following their time working at the American automaker’s first Gigafactory in Nevada alongside Panasonic. The initial goal of the company was to recreate the “gigafactory” concept in Scandinavia.
In late 2021, Northvolt began cell production at its first gigafactory, followed by news of a second factory coming to Sweden by 2025. By March 2022, a third gigafactory had been announced for Germany.
Aside from expanding battery cell and module development across Europe, Northvolt has allocated R&D funding to develop unique battery technologies, like those using 100% recycled nickel, manganese, and cobalt. The company even shared news of a joint program to develop sustainable wood-based batteries using a plant-derived polymer called lignin.
For its latest battery development, Northvolt looks to a subsidiary to deliver some ultra energy-dense cells that could one day power electric planes.
Lithium metal batteries lay foundation for electric planes
Less than a week after industry leader CATL shared details of a new condensed battery that may one day power electric planes, Northvolt has followed up with news of its own program.
The development process is led by Northvolt subsidiary Cuberg, which its parent says is closer than ever to delivering a fully-integrated lithium metal battery system, following validated performance data published last summer.
The development process toward scalable electric plane battery cells began with Cuberg’s 20 Ah commercial-format lithium metal pouch cell, which has already begun shipping to customers around the globe.
Cuberg then integrated those pouch cells into an aviation-specific battery module offering specific energy of 280 Wh/kg and an energy density of 320 Wh/L. For comparison, CATL’s aforementioned condensed cells are promising an energy density of 500 Wh/kg.
Northvolt relayed that Cuberg has already completed a runway verification test using the lithium metal module platform and achieved passive propagation. The subsidiary looks to leverage its energy-dense technology to overcome the weight issues of current battery tech holding electric plane operations back from full scaled growth. Cuberg founder and CEO Richard Wang elaborated:
The aviation industry is pursuing cleaner forms of energy and propulsion, but aircraft manufacturers are held back by the weight and immaturity of aviation-certifiable lithium-ion battery systems. With this new program, we will build certifiable battery systems enabling greatly enhanced aircraft performance and deliver a trusted end-to-end solution backed by one of the world’s preeminent battery manufacturers.
Cuberg’s battery technology is already compatible with standard manufacturing processes, promoting more seamless integration and scalability. As a result, Northvolt states that it intends to leverage Cuberg’s lithium metal cell technology with its own battery manufacturing expertise in order to deliver energy solutions to electric planes.
Featured image credit: Cuberg
Author: Scooter Doll