Electric flight prepares for take off
Flying cars and air taxis that take off and land vertically are all favorite elements of science-fiction. But within this decade they could become common place thanks to electric propulsion. Motivated by the environmental need to lower emissions and the financial benefits of lower operating costs and increased mobility, the electric flight market offers countless opportunities. Rodolphe Boulais, Saft Technical Lead for Emerging Aviation Products, explains how Saft is preparing to meet the challenge.
Why is electric flight the “third aviation revolution”?
First, there were the Wright brothers in 1903. Then, the jet engine revolutionized the industry in the 1940s. Now, the third profound change is coming in the form of electric-hybrid or fully electric aircraft propulsion systems. Thanks to greater efficiency, these new aircraft will help reduce CO2 and NOx emissions, noise and operating costs. Ultimately, they will revolutionize sustainable mobility.
How will e-aviation change the industry as a whole?
There is far more to e-aviation than simply swapping out internal combustion engines. Highly efficient electric drive systems will offer greater aircraft design flexibility and reliability, enabling novel flight operations and services. New aircraft designs will evolve from vertical, conventional, short-take-off-and-landing-aircraft. More-electric, hybrid-electric, or full-electric-aircraft will be flying short or medium distances, piloted or fully autonomous, carrying multiple passengers or cargo.
Is battery technology ready for e-aviation?
Numerous demonstrators flying today show the potential of lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery technologies. Joby aviation, Lilium, Volocopter, e-Hang are some of the many newcomers in this industry. However, to be commercially viable the technology will have to overcome many challenges such as: energy and power-density, discharge/charging rates, cycling ability, safety, reliability and suitability for industrial-scale manufacturing. These are all challenges that Saft is well positioned to solve.
The rise of new lithium chemistries and solid-state technologies will also be a game-changer. Their development will rely on establishing market synergies, sharing knowledge and developing manufacturing capabilities.
How is Saft contributing to e-aviation?
Saft already provides Li-ion backup battery solutions for commercial and military aircraft. Having logged more than 10 million cumulative flight hours, we are perfectly positioned to develop the new generation of propulsion batteries for electric aircrafts.
Success relies on applying an holistic approach, from cell to module to integrated battery systems. Our centers of expertise work in close collaboration with academics, aircraft manufacturers, and integrators in applying leading-edge modeling, simulation and analytics.
As part of TotalEnergies, Saft can also access exceptional resources such as the world’s most-powerful privately-owned supercomputer, enabling in-house modeling, simulations, and validation. Saft is therefore uniquely positioned to lead the charge in the fledgling market of electric flight.