What does NASA’s new battery mean for aviation insurance? | | PropertyCasualty360

According to NASA’s announcement, the solid-state architecture battery for enhanced rechargeability and safety is “experimenting innovative new materials not yet used in batteries and making great strides in power discharge. (Credit: forestgraphic/Adobe Stock)

In line with global efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, the development of electric aircraft is gaining attention. NASA’s latest announcement appears to be one step closer to a new era of electric aviation technology, offering both challenges and opportunities. airline insurance company.

NASA last month report significant progress in the development of Solid-state architecture battery for enhanced rechargeability and safety (SABERS) is an innovative battery pack that is lighter, safer and performs better than the batteries commonly used in today’s vehicles.

As part of NASA’s commitment to sustainable aviation, this project aims to advance battery technology by investigating the use of all-solid-state batteries. standard lithium ion battery And the important thing is to do it with a usable weight.

new development

Finding adequate battery power with available weight is one of the key hurdles for electronic flight to take off. The increasing use of electrical power in aviation is now focused on small unmanned aerial vehicles, or hybrid approaches within commercial aviation.

For aircraft, batteries must be able to store vast amounts of energy, discharge enough energy quickly enough to power the aircraft, and be lightweight at the same time.

According to NASA’s announcement, “SABERS is experimenting with a revolutionary new material not yet used in batteries, which has led to significant advances in power discharge.”

Over the past year, NASA teams have increased battery discharge rates by a factor of 10, and even by a factor of 5.

Other development

NASA isn’t the only organization innovating in this space. There has been much discussion about the emerging field of Urban Air Mobility (UAM), including low-altitude, ultra-short vertical take-off and landing flights in urban areas. area. We expect this to be where we will see the biggest shift to power, at least in the short term. This multi-billion dollar industry is growing rapidly and is well suited to the capabilities of battery technology currently available.

More broadly, the development of light aircraft continues. In September 2022, an all-electric aircraft prototype named Alice, manufactured by Eviation, made its maiden flight from Washington’s Grant He Country International Airport. This aircraft (still awaiting FAA certification) reportedly allows him to fly 400 km on a single battery charge, and his logistics specialist DHL Express Reportedly, A fleet of 12 of these aircraft due for delivery in 2024.

Impact on aviation claims

New technologies will undoubtedly be expensive in the first iteration, ultimately driving up claims costs for insurers.

For example, as technology evolves and parts become more complex, repair and replacement costs can increase. As we’ve seen with the industry’s adoption of composite materials in the last new generation of aircraft, repair methods have completely changed. These materials were, at least initially, unknown and complex to third-party repair organizations. They often contained highly protected intellectual property. We’ve seen manufacturers develop something of a repair monopoly on new materials and have a noticeable impact on the spares market. All of this ultimately impacted costs.

Electric GA aircraft will need to undergo propeller strike impact load testing and may become more dependent on battery systems. thermal runaway Any event that damages the aircraft.

Andrew Southall of McLaren Aviation.  (Credit: Photo provided) Andrew Southall of McLaren Aviation. (Credit: Photo provided)

Another significant potential claim issue is theft or off-board damage to the battery system. The UAM model was partly based on the idea of ​​using a quick disconnect system to remove a depleted battery from the aircraft and plug a freshly charged battery into place for quick turnaround. Built. While this practice is perfectly reasonable from an operational point of view, it can lead to handling damage, multiple connection cycles, and an increased incidence of theft from handling these very expensive parts.

Andrew Southall is Senior aerial surveyor at McLarens Aviation.

The opinions expressed here are those of the authors themselves.

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