COMAC and CATL partner to develop electric aircraft


Chinese aircraft manufacturer COMAC is getting into the electric aviation market in partnership with CATL, a battery manufacturer also based in China. 

The two companies have created a joint venture with Shanghai Jiao Tong University to research new battery-powered aircraft concepts. 

While this collaboration seems to only cover the early research stages for the development of an electric airliner, the credentials and capabilities of the companies involved have drawn the attention of industry analysts because of the potential opportunities it opens in the field of electric flight. 

CATL is a world leader in battery technology for the automotive industry. During the Auto Shanghai trade show earlier in 2023, the company unveiled a 500 Wh/kg battery, representing a major step forward for battery technology. When presenting the breakthrough, CATL made it explicit that it had the aviation market in mind. 

COMAC is developing commercial aircraft, such as the C919, which compete with the two dominant planemakers, Airbus and Boeing. While it is playing catch-up in the traditional aircraft market, the development of brand new technologies could be a game changer allowing Chinese manufacturers to leapfrog the incumbents. 

A battery density of 500 Wh/kg is close to what is considered by many in the industry to be the minimum necessary to develop a viable airliner. While the one recently unveiled by CTAL is not yet ready for serial production, there is hope that the development will pave the way for further investment in the field. 

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