French carmaker Renault has signed a research and development agreement with Airbus aimed at enhancing what the companies call their electrification roadmaps through improvements in battery technology. The partnership was announced on Wednesday during Airbus’s Sustainability Summit in Toulouse.
The collaboration, which covers so-called technology bricks related to energy management and battery weight, will help Airbus develop technologies associated with future hybrid-electric aircraft. The agreement also calls for joint studies into the best pathways to move from current cell chemistries such as lithium-ion to all solid-state designs expected to double the energy density of batteries by 2030.
The joint work will also study the full lifecycle of future batteries, from production to recyclability, to prepare the industrialization of future designs while assessing their carbon footprint across their entire lifecycles.
“This cross-industry partnership with Renault Group will help us mature the next generation of batteries as part of Airbus’ electrification roadmap,” said Airbus chief technical officer Sabine Klauke. “Reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050 is a unique challenge that requires cooperation across sectors, starting today. Bringing together Renault Group’s experience in electric vehicles with our own track record in electric flight demonstrators will allow us to accelerate the development of the disruptive technologies required for future hybrid aircraft architectures in the 2030s and beyond.”
Klauke also explained that the partnership will foster the emergence of common technical and regulatory standards to help meet the industry’s climate targets.
“For the first time, two European leaders from different industries are sharing engineering knowledge to shape the future of hybrid-electric aircraft,” added Renault Group vice president of engineering Gilles Le Borgne. “Aviation is an extremely demanding field in terms of both safety and energy consumption, and so is the car industry. At Renault Group, our 10 years of experience in the electric vehicle value chain gives us some of the strongest feedback from the field and expertise in the performance of battery management systems. Driven by the same ambition to innovate and reduce the carbon footprint, our engineering teams are exchanging with those of Airbus to converge transversal technologies that will enable both hybrid aircraft to be operated and the vehicles of tomorrow to be developed.”
On Tuesday, Airbus joined four other major aerospace groups in announcing plans to develop a new hybrid-electric propulsion system that could reduce fuel burn and emissions for narrowbody airliners. The Sustainable Water-Injecting Turbofan Comprising Hybrid-Electrics program is backed by MTU Aero Engines, Pratt & Whitney, Collins Aerospace, and GKN Aerospace. It is based on adapting Pratt & Whitney's current Geared Turbofan engine.
Developers of new electric aircraft, such as the eVTOL design intended for urban air taxi services, are increasingly turning to the automotive sector for help with battery technology. Companies including Hyundai, Toyota, Stellantis, and Geely are investing in the sector.