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The challenges and opportunities of battery-powered flight

An Author Correction to this article was published on 15 March 2022

This article has been updated

Abstract

Aircraft, and the aviation ecosystem in which they operate, are shaped by complex trades among technical requirements, economics and environmental concerns, all built on a foundation of safety. This Perspective explores the requirements of battery-powered aircraft and the chemistries that hold promise to enable them. The difference between flight and terrestrial needs and chemistries are highlighted. Safe, usable specific energy rather than cost is the major constraint for aviation. We conclude that battery packs suitable for flight with specific energy approaching 600 watt hours per kilogram may be achievable in the next decade given sufficient investment targeted at aeronautical applications.

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Fig. 1: Energy and power used for flight.
Fig. 2: History of usable energy density in aviation.
Fig. 3: Translating battery cell performance to aircraft range.
Fig. 4: Illustration of various losses in practically achieved specific energy at the cell level.
Fig. 5: Differences in mechanism of current Li-ion batteries based on insertion and possible future batteries based on conversion.

Change history

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Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

input from M.W., M.B. and J.L. V.V. coordinated the battery portion with input from Y.-M.C. and E.T. All authors reviewed and edited the entire manuscript.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Venkatasubramanian Viswanathan or Alan H. Epstein.

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Competing interests

V.V. is a technical consultant at QuantumScape Corporation and Chief Scientist at Aionics Inc. Y.-M.C. is co-founder and Chief Scientist at 24M Technologies Inc. M.B. is a technical consultant to Electra.aero and Ampaire.

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Nature thanks Marca Doeff and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Viswanathan, V., Epstein, A.H., Chiang, YM. et al. The challenges and opportunities of battery-powered flight. Nature 601, 519–525 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-04139-1

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