Cuberg aviation battery system program could double effective flight range compared to all-electric lithium-ion

Last week, Northvolt and Cuberg unveiled a new program dedicated to developing high-performance battery systems that will enable safe, sustainable electric flight. Today, Cuberg reveals further detail on module performance and publishes its first-ever image of an aviation-specific module based on lithium metal pouch cells.

Designing and delivering high-performance aviation modules

December 29th, 2022 was a day for celebration at Cuberg—the first round of internal testing on Cuberg’s first module was completed. Against rigorous internal requirements, Cuberg demonstrated that its 20 Ah lithium metal cells, which have a specific energy of 405 Wh/kg, work as intended when assembled into an aviation battery module.

Today, Cuberg is revealing, for the first time, a rendered design of its baseline module technology. High-resolution versions of this image can be downloaded as part of the Cuberg press kit.

Cuberg’s baseline module technology, which can be customized for each customer, boasts industry-leading performance metrics on specific energy and energy density:

  • Mass: 16.4 kg
  • Size: 95mm x 280mm x 540 mm
  • Rated energy: 4.6 kWh
  • Energy density: 320 Wh/L
  • Specific energy: 280 Wh/kg

Aircraft manufacturers will take note of the specific energy of the Cuberg module, which, at 280 Wh/kg, is up to 40% higher than comparable modules based on lithium-ion technology. This significant improvement in specific energy translates to increased flight range which, in turn, enables new use cases for electric and hybrid aviation. Some operators could see their practical range more than double, depending on their aircraft and powertrain design.

Cuberg will deliver modules to select aviation customers throughout 2023.

Commercializing innovations into fully integrated systems solutions

This module technology, along with a certifiable aviation Battery Management System (BMS), pack structure and electronics, will be the foundation of the Cuberg battery system. Cuberg is now expanding battery system production capabilities to enable the delivery of batteries for multiple customer flight test campaigns simultaneously.

In addition, Cuberg is developing improved lithium metal cell and systems technologies to exceed 350 Wh/kg at the battery system level in the coming years as it takes its products through certification.

Just as deep collaboration with customers was crucial during module development, it will play a key role in the coming months. Responding to input and feedback on customer needs, Cuberg has set objectives for module design, including:

  • Dimensions and interfaces suitable for customers’ aircraft.
  • Safety features focusing on certifiable thermal runaway propagation resistance.
  • Connected battery hardware software system for real time operational monitoring and diagnostics.
  • Materials selection focused on weight and reliability.
  • Performance targets for gravimetric energy density, cycling capability and other must-have metrics for enabling the economics of electric flight.

Cuberg CEO and Founder Richard Wang comments, "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.”

Collaborating with aviation companies to reimagine flight

Major aircraft OEMs and startups worldwide are working to accelerate the shift to advanced air mobility. Some companies are retrofitting existing aircraft, others are developing new hybrid or all-electric airplanes, and still others are developing electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft. What all these vehicles have in common is the need for safe and high-performance battery solutions, delivered reliably and at scale. Northvolt and Cuberg will deliver these solutions.

Peter Carlsson, CEO and Co-Founder of Northvolt, comments: “Northvolt is establishing itself as a leading global provider of sustainable battery cells for the automotive segment as well as complete battery systems for the heavy industrial and energy storage markets. With our aviation systems program, we will leverage Cuberg’s next-generation lithium metal cell technology together with our battery manufacturing experience to bring end-to-end energy solutions to the skies.” 

As detailed in Northvolt’s aviation battery systems press release, Cuberg has made significant advances toward a fully integrated battery system since publishing externally validated cell performance data in June 2022. First, Cuberg has developed a 20 Ah commercial-format lithium metal pouch cell with specific energy of 405 Wh/kg which has been shipped to customers worldwide.

Second, Cuberg has engineered and produced an aviation module, based around its 20 Ah lithium metal cells, with specific energy of 280 Wh/kg and energy density of 320 Wh/L.

Third, the Cuberg lithium metal module platform has achieved passive propagation resistance during a thermal runaway verification test campaign, a key step in certification of aviation battery systems.

Finally, Cuberg has made key hires, including Evan Frank, Director of Battery Systems, and Karash Turpin, Head of Manufacturing, to grow organizational capacity and bring the battery system program toward full commercialization.

Richard Wang, Cuberg CEO and Founder, comments: “Now that we’ve proven our advanced battery cell technology, everything we do next is about facilitating and accelerating the deployment of that technology for our customers. Our battery system has been engineered based on our intimate understanding of lithium metal cell technology. Many aircraft manufacturers will find it easier, cheaper, and more reliable to implement our turnkey lithium metal battery system than to develop one in-house."

Building a great team with deep aviation experience

Evan Frank, formerly of Kittyhawk and Airbus, joined Cuberg as Director of Battery Systems to lead battery system engineering. Evan brings over a decade of experience in electric aircraft and electric propulsion development to the team. Evan will sit in the proverbial pilot’s seat of Cuberg’s battery system program as the first-ever hire to this position, and he brings a valuable electric aircraft OEM perspective to the company.

“One of my favorite parts of my work is solving complicated problems,” says Evan Frank, “and unlocking the future of electric aviation might be the hardest thing I’ve ever worked on. I came to Cuberg because we’re the only next-generation battery company that’s integrated all the way from cell to system, and because I really believe in the team. Good tech, deployed meaningfully, is how this problem gets solved.”

Karash Turpin has worked in aerospace for over 35 years, where he supported manufacturing scale-up efforts on numerous aircraft platforms including the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, Boeing C17 Globemaster, Sikorsky CH35 Helicopter, Gulfstream G650ER Business and the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey. Most recently, Karash worked at eVTOL developer Kittyhawk, giving him crucial insights into the end-users of Cuberg’s integrated battery systems.

Karash Turpin comments, “I’ve been interested in technology, and how technology makes an impact on the world, since I was very young. I came to Cuberg because I saw a real opportunity to make a positive difference. Cuberg is helping transform how people and things get around, which is a critical project in the context of our changing planet and interconnected world. Who wouldn’t want to work on technology like that?”

Cuberg continues to grow the team rapidly to meet intense customer demand, with further key hires to be announced later this year.

Ensuring safety and reliability

Reliable and trustworthy manufacturing is a prerequisite for aviation, where safety is paramount. Aircraft manufacturers need to drive their development programs toward certification with a vertically integrated battery systems partner that intimately understands safety, can comply with regulations and can conform with design.

“Vertical integration positions our team to achieve certification,” says Director of Battery Systems Evan Frank. “We control the entire value chain, from raw materials all the way to final integration, which allows us to be more responsive to our customers, make stronger guarantees to regulators, and pursue innovations and research beyond just the battery cell.”

Compliance is foundational to every project at Cuberg, where lithium metal battery systems are designed from the beginning to be part of a certifiable aircraft. Key issues for regulators in the United States and elsewhere include battery sizing, minimum performance standards and how battery performance affects aircraft powertrain sizing and design. Cuberg experts respond to those challenges by collaborating regularly with both regulators and aviation customers to design cells, modules and systems that comply with standards and inspire customer trust.

Conforming to that design requires excellence in manufacturing. A certifiable design is useless if the actual battery systems shipped to aviation customers have defects or inconsistencies. Northvolt, Cuberg’s parent company, has proven ability to conform to design and ensure consistent quality at scale. Northvolt is currently ramping up production at its first gigafactory, Northvolt Ett in northern Sweden, and signed multi-billion dollar customer agreements with BMW, Volvo, Volkswagen, Scania and more; no other aviation battery technology is backed by an organization working at comparable scale and sophistication.

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