United Airlines invests in Electric Power Systems

United_Airlines_EPS_Module resized United Airlines has invested in Electric Power Systems (EPS), a company producing battery technology for uses in the air and on the ground.

EPS’s compatible module technology can be adapted to support a variety of batteries with United looking at using the technology in its ground equipment and electric aircraft.

United says EPS’s battery modules could be used to charge electric ground equipment, electric aircraft when they come into service, electrified auxiliary power unit start products and electrified cold-chain storage product for cargo containers.

EPS aims to provide a battery ecosystem for aviation from packs on aircraft to charging stations on the ground, which is designed to keep costs low and provide rapid charges without degrading battery life.

United is also exploring ways to move its pilot training academy, Aviate, away from internal combustion-powered training aircraft to electric ones, with EPS’s powertrain potentially serving as the core propulsion system for a family of future electric aircraft concepts.

Michael Leskinen, President of United Airlines Ventures, said: “What makes EPS’s technology different and exciting is the scope of operational possibilities where we have the option to deploy it today and, in the future, to help electrify and decarbonise our operations.”

Nathan Millecam, CEO of EPS, added: “United’s investment will enable us to scale our operations and expedite the development of our cutting-edge powertrain solutions. By working together, our aim is to revolutionise air travel and build a more sustainable future for the industry.”

United invests in Natron Energy to electrify ground operations

IAH ramp marshall plane resizedUnited Airlines has made a strategic equity investment in sodium-ion battery manufacturer Natron Energy to help electrify ground operations.

The sodium-ion batteries have the potential to help United electrify airport ground equipment including pushback tractors and operations at the gate.

United has made investments in companies developing technology to reduce aircraft emissions but Natron is the first with the potential to reduce the greenhouse gas footprint from United’s ground operations.

The airline has more than 12,000 pieces of motorised ground equipment, of which one third is electric.

Natron’s batteries can support operations through charging electric ground equipment, charging anticipated future electric aircraft, allowing airport operations to manage electricity demand and greatly improve resilience during inclement weather.

Michael Leskinen, President of United Airlines Ventures, said: “Out of the gate, we primarily focused on technology designed to help reduce carbon emissions from our airplanes. Natron’s cutting-edge sodium-ion batteries presented an ideal opportunity to both potentially expand our sustainability investment portfolio to our ground operations, and to help make our airport operations more resilient.”

Colin Wessells, CEO of Natron Energy, added: “Our batteries provide the high power over short distances that ground service equipment needs, and unlike lithium-ion, Natron’s batteries are completely non-flammable and can be safely deployed into ground service operations.”

Natron says sodium-ion batteries have several advantages such as better output and cycle life than their lithium counterparts, and independent tests showed that they were non-flammable.

The minerals used in sodium-ion batteries are abundant worldwide and easily sourced, unlike lithium which is in short supply with demand expected to triple by 2025.