Thursday, April 18, 2024

Vertical opens the UK’s most advanced aerospace battery facility

Vertical Aerospace, a UK-based start-up developing the VX4 eVTOL aircraft, has opened the Vertical Energy Centre (VEC), which is believed to be the UK’s most advanced aerospace battery facility. The facility based in Bristol will support the design, test, manufacture, and commercialization of Vertical’s custom-made battery pack for its VX4 aircraft.

The multi-million-pound state-of-the-art, 15,000ft2 facility is home to Vertical’s current 50-strong battery team working on the development of proprietary battery technology that will enable greater power-to-weight ratios for eVTOL flight.

The company is aiming for entry into service in 2025 with a 220Wh/kg battery system. This will enable the electric aircraft to conduct back-to-back missions with minimal downtime for charging in between flights and with minimal impact on the battery pack’s cycle life.

“Aircraft require high-performing and safer batteries than anything on the market today. This facility and our core technology will unlock this, bringing the reality of electric flight even closer,” said Dr. Limhi Somerville, Head of Vertical’s powertrain team. Somerville also chairs the eVTOL EuroCAE electrical certification group, the group that is defining the battery standards for electric aviation with EASA.

Last year, Vertical announced its strategic partnership with Taiwanese lithium-ion battery maker E-One Moli Energy, also known as Molicel, which combines Vertical’s proprietary battery pack design with Molicel’s leading cell technology. Vertical has already conducted significant cell testing at the new VEC for use in its battery pack modules. The company has begun building battery manufacturing machinery and assembling the first in-house developed prototype battery modules in the facility.

Before opening the VEC, the company had already conducted extensive tests of its battery systems, including temperature, conducted emissions, vibration, thermal durability, characterization, propagation, and drop testing. It also carried out crash and thermal runaway testing under European Union Aviation Safety Agency and the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority supervision.

Last month, Vertical secured £14m in funding from the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) through a joint initiative with the UK government to further progress the development of its battery technology. The project, in partnership with University College London (UCL), will increase the core capability of Vertical’s battery system, improve recycling efficiency, and increase the scope of its use in additional markets.

“Vertical’s investment in cutting-edge battery technology brings us one step closer to delivering zero-emission flight, a central objective of the Jet Zero Council,” said Lord Johnson, UK Minister for Investment. “Tomorrow’s technologies like zero-emissions aviation will not only provide a boost to sustainable growth but are essential for generating the new, high-quality jobs that will take Britain’s economy into the future.”