Melbourne-based electric motor developer Kite Magnetics has teamed up with French hydrogen fuel cell developer H3 Dynamics to test the compatibility of its technology and give wings to the green revolution in the aviation industry.
Kite Magnetics, founded and led by Monash University materials engineering specialist Dr Richard Parsons, earlier this year unveiled its first product that it describes as the world's most powerful air-cooled electric motor for electric aircraft.
The company has now announced its first international partnership to evaluate its technology for commercial applications.
“Over the coming 18 months we’ll be working together to evaluate the respective technologies to see if Kite Magnetics products will be a great fit for what H3 Dynamics is trying to achieve and likewise if their technology is useful from our end as well,” Parsons tells Business News Australia.
Parsons likens the partnership to the relationship between Airbus and Rolls Royce.
“We’ll focus on the electric motor and inverter while H3 Dynamics will focus on the aircraft itself, including the energy storage systems and everything that comes with that.”
H3 Dynamics, founded by French deep tech entrepreneur Taras Wankewycz, has been developing a distributed nacelle-based hydrogen-electric power system specifically for use in aircraft.
"We firmly believe that fostering the right environment and alliances will empower the aeronautics industry to expedite its transformation with the most optimised and mature solutions,” Wankewycz says. “This is a global endeavour, and our strength lies in unity.”
H3 Dynamics’ innovation, which is integrated with a network of pods including hydrogen storage, enhances long-endurance power in flight while enhancing system safety and aircraft control.
“We’ll look at learning as much as we can about our respective technologies," Parsons says. "But what’s really exciting is that when you combine the two technologies together, both of which are really at the forefront of the industry, you can enable hydrogen-powered aircraft to fly a lot further and potentially carry more payload.”
The motor developed by Kite Magnetics, which is lighter and more efficient than its competitors, is said to facilitate travel up to 15 per cent further than comparable electric or hydrogen-powered electric aircraft.
“Today’s batteries are very heavy for the amount of energy they can store, so a fully battery electric aircraft does not necessarily have the range that we would like to see,” Parsons says.
“Hydrogen-powered aircraft have a source of hydrogen on board, either as a gas or a liquid, and that’s fed into these fuel cells and they convert that hydrogen into electricity which we can use to drive our electric motors. Because hydrogen has more energy than weight, you can fly a lot further.”
Kite Magnetics says its 120kw air-cooled electric motor, which it expects to power a four-seat aircraft, has about double the power for the same weight compared existing technology.
“We’d like to think that in this size category, we are at the forefront of technology,” Parsons says. “We are using a brand new materials technology, arguably the best in the world for electric motors, and we have combined this with an innovative design that has been enabled by this materials technology.”
The partnership with H3 Dynamics comes on the heels of an agreement Kite Magnetics struck earlier this year with Adelaide-based Bader Aero, which is using the company’s motor in its two-seater E22Spark with plans for test flights later this year.
Parsons likens the current state of the electric aircraft industry to the early days of EVs, with the only electric planes in the country currently being used for pilot training.
“Every day we are seeing new companies enter this space so it’s really going to be like the EV market in 2009 when there were only one or two companies doing this. But in the coming decade we think it’s going to explode in popularity.
“Our vision is that this technology will continue to scale with the market, so as the aircraft get bigger and the technology matures, we really want to see our electric motors hanging beneath the wings of aircraft that we all fly on a regular basis.”
Kite Magnetics closed a $1.85 million seed round with Investible, Possible Ventures and Breakthrough Victoria in September last year and since then the company has grown to nine full-time engineers.
While Parsons is confident in Kite Magnetics’ long-term vision to become a global aerospace original equipment manufacturer powering a zero-emissions future for aviation, he concedes there is still some work to do in getting the public on board.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do to gain that greater acceptance from the public,” Parsons says. “But like all things, it will start off with a niche market, like the pilot training, and we can see a future where there initially there will be small 19-seater aircraft going electric. As time goes on, we will see even larger aircraft.”
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