Battery Maker Plans 16,000-Pound, 1500-NM Aircraft For 2028

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Chinese lithium battery company Contemporary Amperex Technology Company Limited (CATL) says it will have a 16,000-pound electric aircraft with a range of up to 1500 nautical miles flying by 2028. NewAtlas reported the company, which supplies most of the electric car batteries in the world, said it flew an 8,000-pound plane powered by its so-called “condensed battery” recently but didn’t give any details on the flight or the airplane.

CATL announced last year that its condensed batteries pack a whopping 500 watt hours per kilogram, about double the storage potential of the best car batteries. It says they’re lightweight, safe and designed specifically for aircraft but it has been light on publicly releasing details. CATL is in partnership with the state-owned Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) and created an aircraft division to explore that market.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

45 COMMENTS

  1. In defense of this idea, China has deep pockets. Fortuitously, Pete Buttigieg has billions just waiting to build the airport infrastructure necessary to recharge the batteries. Problem is, everyone will have to turn their air conditioners off when they’re in operation after he installs them in 2040 (planning takes a while don’t ya know!).

  2. In the realm of writing, I can condense 500 watt hours per kilogram even further: 500W/h/Kg.
    Using hexadecimal numeral system, one can squeeze up to 4095 watt hours per kilogram in the same volume: FFFW/h/Kg. The only reason this might sound stupid is lack of illustration featuring a golden box.

    • But in the realm of physics, a watt hour per kilogram condenses even further, to WH/Kg – not W/H/Kg.

      • Does WH/kg reduce to m^2/s^2 ?

        Omitting the constants,

        WH / kg → J / kg → Nm / kg → kg m s^-2 m / kg → m^2 / s^2

  3. How many more thousand children did the Chicoms send into the Cobalt and Lithium mines of Africa to make this possible? Communist China is in deep, deep trouble internally. Anyone see the acres and acres of unsold battery cars over there? Expect to see the same with battery airplanes no one wants. Where are the enviros these days?

  4. Probably will never be many unsold airplanes as cars, since airplanes are essentially built to order. I have noticed though that our local Tesla lot has really diminished the amount of unsold cars in just the last month…

  5. Cost? Recharge time? Number of recharge cycles before end of life? Failure modes? Ease of manufacture? Temperature sensitivity? Disposal concerns? Warranty?

  6. I plan to have 5.000.000€ net cash in my account by 2027. Anyone up for investing? ROI is guaranteed by LLC Limited Liability Corporation. 🤣😂

  7. For reference, gasoline has about 70,000 wH/kg. Even with the 30% efficiency of the ice engines, the net is still 22,000 wh/kg.
    So, batteries have a long way to go to match the energy density of liquid fuels.!

    • Not only a long way to go, but improvement numbers shrink precipitously as the limits imposed by the laws of physics are approached.

      • Precisely, John. Just because you can somehow squeeze more engerny into a given volume or weight of battery, doesn’t mean you don’t also have to CARRY that very same battery in order to use the energy. It’s just like the nuts who think OTR HD trucks can be electrified. Not only will their load carrying ability be seriously and negatively impacted but the potential wear and tear on our roads will get worse.

    • Also, liquid fueled planes get lighter as they burn off fuel. That doesn’t happen with batteries. This is not insignificant on longer flights.

  8. Nope, more copy/paste fake news. CATL never said this, go look at their their website in both Eng/Chinese. First rule of journalism: check your sources.
    This is using NewsAtlas as the source, which confesses China Daily as its source. Per Wikipedia:
    “China Daily is an English-language daily newspaper owned by the Publicity Department of the Chinese Communist Party.”
    So AvWeb is literally copy/pasting a press release from the Chinese party.

    A look at any fact check or media bias site shows China Daily as “LOW CREDIBILITY”. Their current top-3 stories are: “‘Western echo chamber’ will not bring peace to Ukraine”, NATA ‘Puppet soldiers’ to Ukraine, and “Cut dollar’s hegemony by moving away from greenback”

    CATL is definitely a world player in EV batteries, but on the CATL website there is NO mention of any aircraft program at all in their news section (in any language). This picture above is a screen grab from April 4, 2023 CATL press release on a potential battery advancement. There’s no mention of any aircraft program at all in CATL’s R&D section or any product area.

    I get why other eVTOL websites just copy/paste nonsense, but AvWeb is a better than this.

    • I would disagree that AvWeb is better that this. AvWeb stories are frequently in error or misleading with questionable sources.

      • Can you send me some examples? I’ll fix them right away as we do with all errors we find out about.

      • Isn’t that the article about whose veracity byhgxkae0ewm was calling into question?

        [Or words to that effect…]

      • uh, you might be the one with the reading comp deficit? did you read the source NewsAtlas listed, it’s China Daily which according to Wikipedia, is the Chinese Communist Party English propaganda outlet. However there is ZERO other source for this. There’s dozen of other sites with the same copy/paste, but no independent verification. Nor was this listed as a happening at the forum’s website

        CATL is a huge international company with stock publicly traded, so if this really happened, they’d know, right? According their website’s press release and news section, they made no such announcement.

        go there right now and find it and show me how wrong I am, please

  9. 16K#GW and 1500nm range don’t mean much without knowing the useful load. You can probably make a plane that has a 1500nm range using Tesla power train components that weighs less that 16K. Won’t be good for much other than showing it can be done.

    • Maybe a one-way attack (aka “kamikasi”) drone? It would probably be quieter than a petroleum fueled drone…

  10. Since the article includes all the facts, I couldn’t help but do the maths. 16,000 pounds is 7.25 tonnes. Let’s suppose that fully 70% of the mass is batteries, so we’ve got just over 5 tonnes of batteries. Not bad so far – we still have 2.25 tonnes left over for airframe and payload. We know they can get 500 W/h/kg, so they have 2,540 kW/h. To turn that into something pilots are more familiar with, that’s about 3,400 HP/h. That could run a 675 HP engine for about 5 hours – I chose that because the Cessna Caravan has 675 HP. The only laws of physics that get in the way is that to cover 1500 miles in 5 hours, their 675 HP needs to drag their 16,000 pound airframe at over 300 knots. That would be cool! Unfortunately my reference, the Caravan, weighs in at exactly half that (8,000 pounds, and yes, I know there are other models) and hits ~180 knots. Great! They are only a factor of four out! What’s that between friends?

    • well, the facts are actually that CATL never announced any such thing. Avweb is citing an AI-bot news aggregator NewsAtlas as its source, which in turn admits that their source is the Chinese Communist Party English mouthpiece China Daily.
      CATL is a publicly traded company, and they don’t have any news about any aircraft program at all on their English or Chinese website, and there is nothing about this “announcement” in their news section or press releases. Searching on aircraft in both languages does not reveal any program to develop aircraft. This picture is from a year ago.
      The source says “Zeng made the remarks at the 15th World Economic Forum Annual Meeting of the New Champions” but there’s no mention of the existence of this announcement on the forum’s website (weforum). A search on Robin Zeng Yuqun in every real news site in the world also doesn’t show any evidence that he ever made this announcement, however there’s a hundred other EV-themed sites that copy/pasted this same CCP propaganda, word for word.
      Fake news.

      • There are about a dozen stories about this that I could find and none cited the source we used. Are you saying they’re all bogus? Seems odd. I’ll email the company and see what they have to say.

        • Yep, that’s what I’m saying, they’re all bogus -they’re all copy/paste of the same bogus source, and CATL (which is a huge and well know OEM battery company for people like Tesla) website doesn’t mention it on either the English or Chinese versions of the site. They have news and press releases and and are a publicly traded company, but not a peep from them

          if you’re fine with using the Chinese Communist Party’s official English mouthpiece as your sole source, that’s your journalistic decision.
          If you are seeing something independent of that, could you point to another creditable independent source, I’d appreciate you sharing it. All I see is 30+ of the same copy paste – for example:
          MSN is saying “According to a report from ***China Daily***, this is the first time the Chinese firm has revealed information about the range of its electric aircraft”
          electrek points to their source that say: “according to a report in China Daily.”
          etc. etc. etc.
          There’s NO independent reporting that is not derived from that that I can find. Happy to be proven wrong.

          But again, if you go to the CATL website, there’s no news of this or any press release, or any aviation program in their R&D projects. Again, there’s probably no more legit company in China than CATL as far as transparency. Literally a search of “aviation on catl dot com yields zero results in Eng/CN.
          They do show a presser of CATL and COMAC possibly working together from June 2023, which again is where this screen shot is.
          COMAC also is a well known company, and again, has not a peep about this on their news section
          I don’t think this is odd at all. There’s a ton of these non-news eVTOL news

    • It’s a lot worse than that, since your <2.5 ton airframe won't be strong enough to land with 7 tons gross weight. A 2.5 ton airframe might be able to do 4.5 tons gross weight, leaving you 2 tons for batteries and zero for passengers.

  11. Rarely mentioned in any discussion of electric aircraft is that they carry their full “fuel load” at all times because batteries weigh the same whether they are fully charged or fully discharged. Very, very few conventional aircraft have a max landing weight that equals their max takeoff weight. That means electric aircraft need stronger structures and landing gear, they’ll have more tire and brake wear, and they will handle differently on approach compared with an aircraft that has burned off most of its fuel and no longer carries that weight everywhere.

    • None of which is exactly a deal-breaker, is it? “Oh, my God! You can’t do 40 mph in a new-fangled ‘train’! The speed will kill you!!!”

  12. 500 Wh/kg compared to 12,000 Wh/kg for jet fuel.
    Not going to change the commercial aviation world quite yet.

    • No, not yet, but the costs and performance of lithium-based batteries are falling and rising (resp.) at a prodigious rate and have been for the 30 years since they first became commercially available. As an example, I bought a Makita LXT (18V lithium ion)-powered drill in ~2008 and it came as standard with a 2Ah battery. In 2016 a 6Ah battery with the same dimensions and weight (and 1/2 the cost) was released – a mere 8 years later.

      I see no reason why this rate of improvement will not continue and will almost certainly accelerate.

      Besides all that, even existing battery technology could permit small electric commuter aircraft doing journeys of up to 250 miles… and that’s fully 20% of existing global aviation aviation routes.

      • “existing battery technology could permit small electric commuter aircraft doing journeys of up to 250 miles”

        You really need to show the math on this if you expect people to believe it.

  13. And in a related story, a bridge in NY just came up for sale, contact me for details!

  14. Ok still cant get from LAX to Hawaii on battery power. Let me take my shoes off for an additional 10 digits. A 16,000 lb airplane with 1,500 nm range = Single skinny 120 lb pilot, 1/2 of a toothbrush, trash bag with another pair of underwear, etc. No aircraft / engine(s), pax / cargo, info what a great space filling fluff article.

  15. JimH: The article relies heavily on CATL and ChinaDaily without third-party verification, lacks key flight details and technical configurations, briefly mentions potential safety issues like thermal runaway without in-depth analysis, and may have overly optimistic projections for commercial readiness by 2027-2028 given regulatory and technological challenges. Then there is the useful load question and thermal runaway thingy.

    • actually, go to CATL press section. There’s no such announcement. The only source is the chinese communist party.
      For those of you not familiar with CATL, there’s not some knock-off company, they make more than one third of the batteries in the world and are major OEM supplier for companies like Tesla. They’re publicly traded. If this was actually announced, it would be coming up on the stock’s news feed or there’d be some stock movement, or at least it would be in the the company’s press section as an announcement in English or Chinese.
      There’s no such news
      Likewise for COMAC, which it likewise a very transparent company – they made no such announcement

  16. Interesting topic.

    Summary of Comments:
    Energy Density and Feasibility:

    Several comments correctly note that the energy density of current battery technology (500 Wh/kg) is significantly lower than that of traditional aviation fuel (12,000 Wh/kg for jet fuel). This presents a substantial challenge for the practicality of electric aircraft with long ranges and heavy loads.
    Comments also point out that electric aircraft do not get lighter as they burn off energy, unlike fuel-powered aircraft, impacting performance and efficiency.
    Manufacturing and Safety Concerns:

    Valid concerns are raised about the manufacturing feasibility, safety (e.g., thermal runaway), and economic viability of such electric aircraft.
    Market and Infrastructure Readiness:

    Comments highlight potential challenges in market acceptance and the need for significant infrastructure to support widespread use of electric aircraft.
    In summary, while CATL is a leading company in battery technology and has made significant advancements, the specific claims about a 16,000-pound, 1500-NM range electric aircraft by 2028 should be taken with caution due to a lack of detailed, independently verifiable information and the ambitious nature of the claims. 4o

  17. Having seen videos of lithium battery fires, I’m not likely to get on any plane with a large lithium battery pack before that technology has flown safely for a few million hours.

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