China’s leading electric vehicle battery manufacturer, Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL), has ventured into the aviation industry with the launch of an aviation division. The move comes as CATL claims to have achieved the “holy grail” of energy density required for commercial electric aircraft, reaching 500 Watt-hours per kilogram (Wh/kg).

CATL, which already supplies batteries to Tesla, made the groundbreaking announcement at the Auto Shanghai trade fair earlier this year. Chief scientist Wu Kai revealed that the company is now on the verge of producing a commercially viable battery for electric planes. The new battery’s energy density of 500Wh/kg offers a unique combination of high energy density and safety, paving the way for a new era of electrification in passenger aircraft.

To further advance its capabilities in electric aircraft technology, CATL has formed a joint venture with Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC), a state-owned plane manufacturer. This partnership follows four years of dedicated research into the field.

The prospects of electric aircraft have become increasingly promising in recent years, thanks to significant battery breakthroughs that address cost and capacity limitations. Eviation, an Israel-based startup, successfully completed the maiden flight of an electric commuter plane named “Alice” last year. The aircraft is designed to carry nine passengers and their luggage or up to a tonne of cargo, making it a practical solution for short-haul commercial journeys covering distances of up to 645 km (400 miles). With over 200 orders already placed by regional airlines and logistics firms in the US, Eviation aims to fulfill these orders by 2026.

CATL’s entry into the aviation industry and its remarkable battery advancements signal a promising future for electric planes and sustainable air travel. As technology continues to progress, electric aviation is set to play a crucial role in reducing the environmental impact of the aviation industry.

By Impact Lab