Creating batteries that could help power air travel

August 30, 2019

Researchers at the Ohio State University Center for Automotive Research have created new computer models to predict the life and performance of batteries that could power some passenger airplanes – a step forward for cleaner, more efficient air travel.

The models show that adding lithium-ion batteries to a regional airplane could reduce that airplane's fuel needs by up to 20 percent, the researchers said.

The team presented the findings last week at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Electric Aircraft Technologies Symposium in Indianapolis.

"We are working on ways to make air travel less carbon-intensive ," said Marcello Canova, a co-presenter and associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Ohio State. "Lithium-ion batteries, including the technology that is commercially available today, appear to be a promising option."

The research is conducted under NASA's University Leadership Initiative program, and focuses on evaluating the trade-offs between fuel savings and a battery pack's size, weight and costs, while also including the carbon impact of the electricity necessary to recharge the battery pack. The models and tools developed were a joint effort between researchers at Ohio State and Georgia Institute of Technology, and could help airplane and airplane battery designers better understand how an aircraft's design affects its ability to be powered by a battery.

In preliminary designs, the researchers focused on lithium-ion battery packs that could supplement the power produced by the engines of a regional jet – one traveling 600 or fewer miles, carrying 50 to 100 passengers.

Their model showed in tests that a battery has the ability to power about 30 percent of the total power required for an airplane to climb to cruising altitude, and about 20 percent of the power required to cruise.

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