Richard Wang speaks at BloombergNEF Summit in San Francisco

Cuberg CEO reveals specific energy of eVTOL Battery Module and discusses the implications for Future Air Mobility business models.

San Francisco, California

Cuberg Founder and CEO Richard Wang spoke at the 2024 BNEF Summit in San Francisco at a Main Plenary titled “Innovation Forum: The Next Disruptive Innovations in Electric Aircraft and Urban Air Mobility”. Richard followed remarks from Sebastien Borel, Chief Commercial Officer at Lilium, and Bonny Simi, Head of Air Operations and People at Joby Aviation. The plenary was moderated by Takehiro Kawahara of BNEF.

Richard treated the audience to an exclusive reveal of performance metrics from an upcoming validation report of Cuberg’s eVTOL Battery Module. Cuberg’s Module has achieved an externally validated specific energy of at least 270 Wh/kg, which massively expands the possible flight range of a typical 7,000 lb eVTOL.

Keep reading to watch a video recording of Richard’s conversation with Mr. Kawahara and read a transcript.

Watch now on Vimeo

Innovation Forum: The Next Disruptive Innovations in Electric Aircraft and Urban Air Mobility on


Takehiro Kawahara: Now we have a final speaker. So we want to invite Richard Wang, who's the CEO of Cuberg, to know about how battery innovation can change the performance of electric aircraft. Welcome, Richard.

Richard Wang: Thank you.

Takehiro Kawahara: Good afternoon.

Richard Wang: Good afternoon.

Takehiro Kawahara: So you also have a short video to introduce about Cuberg.

Richard Wang: Sure.

Takehiro Kawahara: So we want to take a look at it first and then ask questions.

Richard Wang: Okay.

Cuberg is focused on developing advanced high-performance batteries for the most demanding transportation and mobility applications in the world, areas like electric aviation, maritime, heavy-duty, trucking and so forth. Aircraft electrification will be focused primarily on smaller aircraft for shorter routes, and so things like urban mobility, flying around cities, as well as regional air mobility upwards of 500 miles of flight range.

The challenge of electrifying aviation is fundamentally one of battery weight. It's about really achieving higher energy per weight, which allows you to put more energy into the plane without weighing it down too much, so that you can still carry passengers or cargo and fly useful distances with electrified flight. If you look at lithium ion batteries today, they are doing a pretty good job at electrifying passenger electric vehicles. But when we look at areas like electric aviation, this is where existing lithium ion batteries are wholly insufficient.

Cuberg's lithium metal batteries demonstrate about 50 to 70% higher specific energy. And so what that means is energy per weight of battery. This combined with also the high power capability of the batteries, how fast you can get that energy out, allows us to electrify applications that were previously impossible to electrify with lithium ion batteries.

The core of Cuberg's technology that makes this performance possible is our lithium metal anode, which replaces the graphite anode and is much, much lighter weight and more energy dense, and then a advanced non-flammable liquid electrolyte. This electrolyte is the core secret sauce that stabilizes the lithium metal and gives it safety and cyclability and reliability.

Takehiro Kawahara: Thank you. Likewise the other two speakers, I will directly ask about technology first. So you are focusing on the lithium metal anode as a business. What are the most exciting technology advancements have you seen so far? Why does it matter For electric aviation?

Richard Wang: Ultimately everything comes down to weight in electric aviation, and my perspective is the criticality of battery technology, it is truly the foundational technology for enabling what this industry can ultimately do. I think the analogy that I draw is – it's similar to the jet engine, in the sense that an air framer will only design a new generation of aircraft when there's a fundamentally much better jet engine, and batteries are as significant or even more significant for electric aircraft designs and performance and business models.

And so when you look at the need to innovate beyond lithium ion batteries, currently they're about, let's say, 250 to 280 watt-hours per kilogram at the cell level. Today, Cuberg has already third-party validated results at the cell level of 400 watt-hours per kilogram. And that leap ultimately lets you get towards incredibly higher levels of aircraft range.

And then beyond this, the other critical aspect is how robust is your battery chemistry. It's not enough to deliver that energy and the power a few times, but you have to do very high-power discharges many hundreds of cycles at a time. And so actually the slide we show here, this is not cell level, but actually our most recent milestone. We're going to be releasing an independent report of our module battery results soon. And so at the package systems level 270 watt-hours per kilogram, which is a solid about 40 to 50% higher than the best lithium ion batteries can do. And from a range perspective, this actually ultimately roughly doubles the effective flying range for an aircraft.

Takehiro Kawahara: That's the blue circle?

Richard Wang: And that's the blue circle. So fundamentally really reconfiguring what your addressable market is in urban mobility with advanced batteries.

Takehiro Kawahara: So that's could potentially extend the range, and it can connect more airports…

Richard Wang: Absolutely.

Takehiro Kawahara: ... and create more range.

Richard Wang: And what we see is probably double to tripling in terms of revenue opportunities, and much higher profitability for operators, because of much more valuable routes, flying a lot longer distances, and much more effective turnaround with less need for charging, because of the range.

Takehiro Kawahara: So are you looking at mainly eVTOLs for our urban air mobility or are you also scoping somewhat larger aircraft?

Richard Wang: So in aviation, we have an even split between VTOL, which remains very exciting, because that's where the most critical need is for lighter weight and powerful batteries, but we also have a lot of promising prospects in the hybrid electric CTOL world. So these are typically small regional mobility concepts, maybe upwards of nine passengers commonly or occasionally 20 to 30 passengers, flying upwards of a few hundred miles, and with a hybrid electric platform but needing very high power batteries at the end of the day.

We do also diversify – I know this panel is about aviation! We also diversify beyond aviation, because aviation does take a long time to get towards revenue. So in the shorter term, we have some pretty exciting prospects in high-performance automotive worlds, some of those leading high-end car brands in the world driving the envelope of electrification in terms of performance, as well as motorbikes, electric bikes, mountain biking and recreational use cases, and some other areas where really, ultimately, high performance is our coordination focus.

Takehiro Kawahara: So you mentioned about the various type of applications. I would like to ask you, where is Cuberg standard in terms of applications for aircraft and also for aircraft particularly going through the regulatory process? So-called having type certificate is a challenge. Where is Cuberg standard at the moment?

Richard Wang: Yes, so as a company, we're 225 people now. We're all based in the San Francisco Bay area, in San Leandro. We have a pilot manufacturing facility that we are doing an exciting ribbon cutting ceremony on in a few weeks. This will get us to about 10 megawatt hours per year of production, which is the equivalent of, if you converted to air taxis, worth 40 air taxis per year, so a healthier level at a pilot scale for qualification and test flight programs and so forth. And then we'll be building that first commercial factory to go into serial production in the next two years timeframe. We are also launching our certification process.

We've hired a head of certification who has several decades of experience from the FAA. We'll be announcing that hire also in the next month. So very much ramping up towards getting into qualification for the first commercial aviation programs.

Takehiro Kawahara: That's quite exciting. And also now Cuberg is a part of Northvolt, the big battery manufacturers based in Sweden, and also Cuberg has made a new partnership with Safran, which is the French engine company. What do those partnerships mean to your business?

Richard Wang: Yes, both of these are of course very critical. So Northvolt is our parent company. For those of you who are not familiar, Northvolt itself is a startup, but a very large one, 5,000 people now, started in Sweden, building out automotive gigafactories in Sweden, Germany, and Canada. They've raised now I believe about $13 billion to build out all these factories and really driving the most sustainable and renewable batteries in the world with a circular value chain. Cuberg is their high performance products division and advanced technology group leading the long-term development of technologies that eventually also go into mass market EVs.

Where we really leverage Northvolt and why we're unique compared to a lot of, let's say, standalone startups, is the ability to leverage both the financial stability and balance sheet strength of a company like Northvolt as well as technologically the factory designs, equipment and process designs, and also very, very robust supply chains that a company like Northvolt has, to build fully integrated battery materials, cells, and packs and systems that are fully traceable and certifiable.

As to Safran, we also announced an exciting partnership with Safran. Safran has a very compelling solution in the electric motor world for aviation, whereas we are bringing highly advanced battery technologies, and ultimately the combination of motors and batteries is then what forms the heart of a propulsion system for electric aircraft. And so the combination of the two is to really design a very integrated and well-functioning system that's optimized in performance and that can then be a certifiable solution that really eases integration of electric power trains for aircraft manufacturers. And I think especially in the CTOL world, where the integration of propulsion is less critical to airframe design, unlike VTOL, this is a very attractive concept to really de-risk and reduce the cost and timeline for deployment of electric propulsion in CTOL platforms in particular.

Takehiro Kawahara: Thank you. My last question is how do you want to scale, especially for the cutting-edge part of technologies? Could it be expensive in the early stage of the market? How would you like to scale the technology?

Richard Wang: Yes. So we've really designed our technology with scalability in mind. So pretty much all the equipment and processes we use come from the lithium-ion industry. So we are ready. The product and the company is ready actually to scale. What we see is really when we are targeting some of these emerging markets, especially in aviation, we don't want to go too fast and be ahead of our customers, either. And so as customers are maturing, as their needs mature and develop in terms of volumes and product requirements for batteries, we will be there ready to stand by and deliver batteries at that scale.

Takehiro Kawahara: Thank you very much, Richard.

Richard Wang: Thank you.

Takehiro Kawahara: So it's very exciting to see all the innovation happening in the various companies. And please join us to thank for all the three companies for these three speakers, and then let's look forward to how those technology could change the way we fly in the future. Thank you very much.