Kite Magnetics has boosted its plans for an electric motor with a A$1.85 million ($1.2 million) seed funding round. The Australian start-up says the motor will be smaller, lighter, and more efficient than ones based on current technology and will employ a new magnetic material called Aeroperm developed at Monash University by its co-founders, Richard Parsons and Kiyonori Suzuki.
The company says it will deploy the new funds to design, build, and test the 65-kilowatt motor for initial use with two-seat electric light aircraft, like Pipistrel’s Velis Electro. Flight testing is expected to start in 2023, following ground testing that is set to begin at the facility it is building in the Melbourne area.
In the longer term, Kite plans to scale up the technology to develop and certify a 650-kilowatt electric propulsion unit that could replace turboprop engines on aircraft such as the Cessna Grand Caravan. It also envisages integrating the Aeroperm technology with larger propulsion systems using hydrogen fuel cells intended for regional airliners.
“This is where we see we can have the most impact on the industry and the environment in the mid-term,” Parsons told FutureFlight. “Longer term, our ambitions take us well beyond the one-megawatt class electric motors as we plan to grow along with the industry and as future energy storage technology matures and advances.”
Aeroperm is a nanocrystalline magnetic soft material composed of nan-scale crystals within an amorphous metal matrix. According to the Kite team, it will lose energy at just one-tenth of the rate of existing magnetic materials used in current electrical devices.
The Investible Climate Tech venture capital group led the oversubscribed seed funding round. It was backed by investors including Breakthrough Victoria, Galileo, and Possible Ventures.
The round marked the first investment in early-stage companies by Breakthrough Victoria, which is backed by the state government of Victoria, where Kite Magnetics is based. “Victoria’s track record for innovation positions the state to become a major contributor to the world’s move towards a low-carbon future and secure the state’s future competitiveness and prosperity in the near and the long-term,” said Breakthrough Victoria CEO Grant Dooley.
“The aviation sector is in desperate need of decarbonization technology,” commented Patrick Sieb, co-head of Investible’s Climate Tech group. “Richard’s unique blend of entrepreneurial grit and a strong technical background uniquely positions him and the Kite team to transform the industry and produce the world’s highest-performance electric motors.”
Kite Magnetics is now recruiting specialists to manage its certification and business development operations.