- Chinese battery company CATL says it can mass produce a condensed matter battery dense enough to power electric passenger airplanes.
- This is the second time a claim has been made about the success of producing a battery this dense, but no such battery yet exists in the marketplace.
- Not everyone is convinced the batteries are safely workable.
Chinese battery maker CATL says it has cutting-edge technology able to surpass limits that have held back battery development worldwide, ushering in a new era of electrification for passenger aircraft. These are bold claims that, if they come to fruition, will shake up battery technology as we know it.
Battery density signifies a key metric in creating a lithium-ion battery that’s both powerful and light enough for versatile applications, such as an aircraft. Current understanding of technology has the densest lithium-ion batteries generally hovering below 300 Watt hours per kilogram (Wh/kg), but CATL says their new battery boasts a 500 Wh/kg density. This is especially promising for use in aviation due to weight considerations.
“CATL’s condensed battery leverages highly conductive biomimetic condensed state electrolytes to construct a micron-level self-adaptive net structure that can adjust the interactive forces among the chains,” the company says, “thus improving the conductive performance of the cells and, in turn, the efficiency of lithium ion transporting while boosting stability of the microstructure.”
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By integrating ultra-high density cathode materials, new anode materials, separators, and a fresh manufacturing process, the company claims their battery technology results in a high performance level for both charge and discharge—all done in a safe manner.
CATL says it has partners in the “development of electric passenger aircrafts” and claims to be testing the batteries for application in the aviation, all while planning the launch of an mass-produced automotive-grade version of the condensed batteries later this year.
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard of a 500 Wh/kg battery, with Japan’s National Institute for Materials Science and SoftBank Crop announcing the development of a lithium-air battery with such a density in 2021. But we’ve still not seen the batteries in use.
As reported by The Register, battery expert Rachid Yazami isn’t yet convinced. “We should ask CATL to share tests data, including high and low temperature performance, cycle life, calendar life, charging time, safety, and costs,” he told the publication. “I’d first wait to see if the CATL new battery works in other EVs before considering aircraft.”
If manufacturers can translate announcements of condensed matter batteries into real-world creations, we may soon see electrification take flight.
Tim Newcomb is a journalist based in the Pacific Northwest. He covers stadiums, sneakers, gear, infrastructure, and more for a variety of publications, including Popular Mechanics. His favorite interviews have included sit-downs with Roger Federer in Switzerland, Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles, and Tinker Hatfield in Portland.
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