Supernal seeks ‘open-ecosystem’ approach to eVTOL battery development

Avatar for Ben ForrestBy Ben Forrest | August 4, 2022

Estimated reading time 5 minutes, 4 seconds.

Supernal has revealed new details about its open-ecosystem approach to developing eVTOL batteries, with a focus on technology-sharing and coalition-building among industry partners to fast-track the widespread adoption of electric flight.

Supernal
Supernal said it is taking an “open-ecosystem” approach to eVTOL battery development. Supernal Image

In an email interview, the Hyundai-owned developer said it is working with several battery manufacturers — including a partnership with Electronic Power Systems (EP Systems) announced at the Farnborough International Airshow — to move the technology forward.

“While the technology Supernal is developing is targeted at and optimized for Supernal’s vehicle, we believe our combined efforts with key industry partners will benefit the AAM [advanced air mobility] community as a whole,” said Ben Diachun, chief technology officer for Supernal. “Instead of signing exclusive partnerships that benefit Supernal alone, we are working to foster networks of expertise for the industry.”

Supernal expects its partnership with EP Systems and other technology providers will improve metrics like battery power, energy, charging time and cycle life — leading to longer, more affordable eVTOL flights.

In the meantime, the company is taking a wait-and-see approach before selecting a battery supplier for its five-seat eVTOL, whose cabin concept was unveiled at Farnborough.

“Once Supernal, in collaboration with industry partners like EP Systems, has developed energy storage systems that meet our challenging requirements — and is able to certify eVTOL batteries to the commercial aviation standards — we will determine who will produce our batteries,” Diachun said.

EP Systems has an impressive track record, with its battery systems in place on high-profile platforms like the Diamond Aircraft eDA-40, the Aurora Flight Pegasus, Embraer Ipanema and Boeing CAV. The company was also chosen to provide systems for NASA’s X-57 experimental electric airplane and Archer’s Maker eVTOL demonstrator.

EP Systems is in the process of certifying a new family of lithium battery modules for eVTOLs and other applications known as Electric Propulsion ion Core (EPiC), though supply chain issues have delayed their expected Technical Standard Order (TSO) approval to as late as 2023.  

VoltAero plans to use EPiC systems for its Cassio 330 hybrid-electric conventional take-off and landing (eCTOL) aircraft, and SkyDrive has selected an EPiC battery system for its two-seat SD-05 eVTOL, slated for entry into service in Japan as early as 2025.

“Supernal’s choice to partner with EP Systems was driven by several factors, one major factor being EP Systems’ existing product roadmap and aviation experience,” Diachun said. “While Supernal’s development with EP Systems could be considered ‘new technology,’ it heavily leverages EP Systems’ newest industry-leading products.”

This likely means Supernal will not use off-the-shelf EPiC batteries for the eVTOL it hopes will enter service sometime in 2028. Its goal is to grow AAM battery technology beyond what’s currently available, with insight from multiple industry partners.

“Energy storage system development for AAM is complex and multifaceted,” Diachun said. “Battery systems must balance competing requirements of safety, aviation certification, power, energy, charge time, cycle life and cost. This is a large task for any single company or team to undertake alone.”

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