Archer Aviation and NASA are joining forces to test battery systems for eVTOL aircraft and potential space applications, the California-based eVTOL developer announced this week. Under a new Space Act Agreement, Archer will work with the U.S. space agency to characterize the safety and performance of the battery cells that power the company’s Midnight air taxi.
The Midnight is a piloted, four-passenger eVTOL air taxi that Archer says will have a range of up to 100 miles on a single charge, although the company is targeting shorter urban routes of around 20 miles for initial commercial operations, which it expects to launch by the end of 2025. Its all-electric powertrain features six independent 800-volt battery packs, each of which power two of the 12 rotors that are mounted on the wing. Six of the 12 propellers tilt to provide a combination of vertical lift and forward propulsion.
Archer designed its own eVTOL battery packs using off-the-shelf lithium-ion battery cells that are already commercially available. Specifically, it is using cylindrical, type 2170 battery cells supplied by Taiwanese battery manufacturer Molicel. This type of battery cell is commonly used in electric vehicles on the road today, “so it comes with favorable economics and a significant supply base…and we're not counting on a technology breakthrough,” Alex Clarabut, Archer’s director of battery systems, said at the public reveal of the Midnight aircraft in November 2022.
Under the new Space Act Agreement, NASA aims to test the safety and power performance of Archer’s battery cell system and share its learnings with the advanced air mobility industry to help advance battery technology, which is a key enabler for electric aviation. Archer said NASA will also explore uses for its battery pack design in space, although it did not specify what sort of applications they have in mind. Satellites and other spacecraft could potentially use the battery packs for power-intensive payloads or electric propulsion systems.
NASA and Archer will be conducting some battery testing at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, an international research facility in Grenoble, France that’s home to one of the world’s most powerful X-ray sources. The researchers will use this X-ray facility to study how the battery cells hold up in “extreme abuse cases,” according to Archer.
“We’re extremely proud to partner with NASA, who has pioneered the eVTOL industry over the last 3+ decades, in support of our collective mission to ensure U.S. leadership in aerospace continues for decades to come,” said Archer founder and CEO Adam Goldstein. “Many countries around the world are challenging the U.S. in this new era of flight, and our country is at risk of losing its global leadership position unless we work together, government and industry, to ensure we seize the moment and pioneer this new era of aviation technology, which stands to benefit all Americans.”
Archer Adds Bizav and Airline Execs to Leadership Team
Last week Archer announced that it had appointed two aviation industry executives to its leadership team to help the company prepare for Midnight's upcoming certification and entry into service. Miles Rogers, a private aviation executive who most recently served as the chief strategy officer at WheelsUp, is Archer’s new senior v-p and head of marketing. Meanwhile, former Delta Air Lines executive Sterling Gerdes is assuming the role of product lead for vertiport experiences.
“Miles and Sterling bring the perfect mix of experience and skills to Archer’s management team as we accelerate towards commercialization in 2025,” said Archer chief commercial officer Nikhil Goel. “At WheelsUp, Miles pioneered key strategic initiatives to build the company into a well-known brand. At Delta Air Lines, Sterling oversaw the company’s early AAM strategy, with a focus on integrating eVTOL aircraft into its operations to upgrade a traveler’s home-to-airport experience. We couldn’t be more excited to have both leaders join the Archer team.”