2023 – the year of better battery

By Dirk Singer / January 18, 2023

Our new Sustainable Aviation 2023 Trends report looks at how and why the battle for climate action is expected to grow more heated this year and what visionary executives can do to stay ahead. Download the full report here.

This year, expect to see further advances in electric vehicle (EV) battery technology, turning electric regional aviation from a flight of fancy into a reality.

Can you imagine that an EV battery in today’s Nissan Leaf car would have cost half a million dollars back in the 1990s (had the car existed then)? Instead, it costs $6000.

These estimates were worked out by Hannah Ritchie, the Head of Research at the scientific publication ‘Our World in Data’, in her excellent ‘Sustainability by Numbers’ newsletter.

She shows that the trajectory of electric batteries is following that of solar power, with costs falling by more than 98% since 1991 and a 3.4x increase in energy density.

Though her article was car-specific, the relevance for aviation is obvious. Electric and hybrid-electric companies like Eviation and Heart Aerospace have attracted a lot of attention over the past year.

Yet questions remain about EV battery technology. In particular, sceptics wonder if it really will be able to power a 30 or 50-seat regional aircraft for any meaningful distance.

Hannah Ritchie’s figures are a reminder that battery technology has advanced considerably and will continue to do so. As a result, in 2023, we expect to see advances in battery technology to make this a reality.

Look out for battery projects spearheaded both by NASA and startups in the climate tech space.

As opposed to relying on lithium-ion batteries, NASA is currently researching solid-state batteries with a specific focus on aviation via its Solid-state Architecture Batteries for Enhanced Rechargeability and Safety (SABERS) project.

SABERS has already demonstrated the ability to generate 500 watt-hours per kilogram, more than double the 260 wh/kg of the best cars and higher than the 480 wh/kg required for regional flight.

At the same time, startups are looking at electric aircraft battery technology.

One of them is a Belgian startup Solithor which raised €10 million in Seed funding in 2022 to develop new solid-state lithium battery cells.

Another company developing solid lithium batteries is Cuberg, whose founder Richard Wang was featured by Time Magazine as an ‘eco-preneur.’ Cuberg claims that once developed, his batteries can fly an all-electric regional aircraft for 300 miles.

Over the next year, look out for more news from projects like SABERS as well as other startups aiming to produce a workable electric aircraft battery.

More aviation-specific sustainability updates and analysis can be found in our weekly Sustainability In The Air newsletter, led by SimpliFlying’s Research Director Dirk Singer. Do subscribe to our send-out to stay on top of the latest trends.

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