Vertical Aerospace, a UK-based start-up developing the VX4 eVTOL aircraft, has opened a facility in Bristol dedicated to designing, testing, and manufacturing batteries for electric aircraft, the company announced today. The Vertical Energy Centre (VEC) is the UK’s most advanced aerospace battery facility, says the company.
At least 50 Vertical employees are now working at the 15,000-sq-ft facility, where Vertical is developing proprietary battery technologies that will enable higher power-to-weight ratios for eVTOL aircraft. The company is planning for its eVTOL air taxi to enter service in 2025 with a battery system that delivers 220 Wh/kg of specific energy, which will enable the electric aircraft to conduct back-to-back missions with minimal downtime for charging in between flights, and with limited impact on the battery pack’s cycle life, according to Vertical.
“Aircraft require high-performing and safer batteries than anything on the market today. This facility and our core technology will unlock this, bringing the reality of electric flight even closer,” said Limhi Somerville, the head of Vertical’s powertrain team. Somerville also chairs the eVTOL EuroCAE electrical certification group, which is defining the battery standards for electric aviation with the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).
In July 2022, Vertical announced a partnership with Taiwanese lithium-ion battery maker E-One Moli Energy, also known as Molicel, with the goal of combining Vertical’s battery pack design with Molicel’s battery cell technology. Vertical says it has already conducted several tests on the battery cells at the new VEC, and the company has begun building manufacturing machinery and assembling its first prototype battery modules.
Before opening the VEC, Vertical had already conducted extensive tests of its battery systems, including temperature, vibration, and durability tests as well as drop tests. It has also conducted crash and thermal runaway testing under the supervision of EASA and the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority.
Last month, Vertical announced that it had received a £14 million ($17 million) award from the Aerospace Technology Institute, through a partnership with the UK government, to fund the development of its proprietary battery technologies.
“Vertical’s investment in cutting-edge battery technology brings us one step closer to delivering zero-emission flight, a central objective of the Jet Zero Council,” said Lord Johnson, the UK’s minister for investment. “Tomorrow’s technologies like zero-emissions aviation will not only provide a boost to sustainable growth but are essential for generating the new, high-quality jobs that will take Britain’s economy into the future.”