Declining costs and performance improvements of lithium-ion batteries herald many prospective electric propulsion benefits for the aviation sector, including lower fuel and maintenance costs, decreased noise and air pollution and advanced aircraft designs. Research led by U.S. Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) delineates battery requirements and R&D needed to foster the commercialization of electric aviation propulsion.

Input on R&D priorities was sought from nearly 100 experts from aircraft companies, component makers, battery companies, materials companies, car companies and academic and national lab researchers. The recommendations and guidance were used to define research areas where the U.S. Department of Energy and NASA could promote electric aviation battery technology for air taxis, 20-passenger commuter aircrafts, 50-passenger regional jets and 150-passenger, single-aisle 737-class aircraft.

For the air taxi and commuter aircraft market, emphasis should be placed on evaluating next-generation lithium-ion chemistries under aviation conditions and examining failure modes and safety. For regional jets, R&D in solid-state batteries should be directed to the exploration of new designs, manufacturing approaches and high temperature operation. Evaluation of high-energy systems, including sulfur-based batteries and hydrogen carriers that are beyond those currently in the R&D pipeline, is recommended for 737 class aircraft.

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