United Airlines invests in EPS for battery modules
US carrier United Airlines is investing in Electric Power Systems (EPS). The Utah-based company manufactures battery modules that can be adapted to various battery types. United Airlines is considering using the EPS modules to charge electric ground equipment and future aircraft.
The battery technology from Electric Power Systems is modular and can be used for a broad suite of aerospace applications. The company aims to provide a whole battery “ecosystem” for aviation. This should range from the packs on aircraft to charging stations on the ground.
United Airlines envisages that the powertrain from EPS may become the core propulsion system for a host of future electric aircraft concepts. This is to start with an electric trainer and scale to larger variants as the technology advances, also mentioning electric air taxis. United wants to eventually convert its entire Aviate pilot training academy from internal combustion to electric aircraft.
The new investment in EPS should also benefit ground equipment. United says it has around 12,000 pieces of motorized ground equipment across its operations, of which only one-third are currently electric. EPS’s battery modules may prove specifically useful for charging electric ground equipment and future aircraft, electrified auxiliary power unit (APU) start products and electrified cold-chain storage products for cargo containers.
“What makes EPS’s technology different and exciting is the scope of operational possibilities where we have the option to deploy it today and, in the future, to help electrify and decarbonize our operations,” said United Airlines Ventures President Michael Leskinen. “United’s best roadmap to reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050, without relying on traditional carbon offsets, is by using every tool at our disposal – that includes the potential use of EPS’s impressive portfolio of electric aircraft powertrain solutions, including high-performance power electronics, and energy storage systems.”
Like all of those working on batteries in general, but especially so for aviation, the company is aiming to keep costs low, to provide rapid charges without degrading the life of the battery and, most crucially for aviation – to address the weight of the batteries, which is their greatest challenge to being used in aircraft. United Airlines is already moving forward on batteries and invested in Natron Energy, a U.S. developer of sodium-ion batteries, at the end of 2022.