Revolution.Aero Uplift: Energy as a service
Only around 20% of the global population has ever flown in an aircraft. Electrification provides the best pathway to opening up aviation to the other 80%, says Scott Drennan, founder and CEO, Drennan Innovation.
But to do that in full means electrifying every power element in the ecosystem — battery systems, high and low voltage power distribution systems, power management software and then ground systems like fast chargers and grid storage batteries.
US-based Electric Power Systems (EP Systems) is a company providing solutions for all of the above. The high-power, scalable Energy Storage System (ESS) maker calls it a full-stack power solution, which it can offer as a full ecosystem or on a service-by-service basis.
“We call it energy as a service,” Nate Millecam, president and CEO, EP Systems tells Revolution.Aero. “Which really allows people, with a low investment cost, to get an electric or hybrid-electric powertrain and then they can pay as they go and use the savings that come with those powertrains.”
EP Systems is currently focused on electrifying airports, but has plans to extend that to vertiports once the eVTOL technology begins to come to market. The firm currently produces over 2MWh in battery systems (pictured below) per year, but with a 70,000sqft facility being opened later this year production will upped to 100MWh per year.
The company also has a perfect safety record in the field. To date eight aircraft have flown using the firm’s systems and that will have risen to 14 by next year, according to Millecam. Aircraft development programs using EPS systems include Bell Nexus, Embraer Ipanema, Boeing CAV and VoltAero’s Cassio 330.
The company isn’t new to the game. It has been operational for 10 years-plus now, a large proportion of which in “stealth” mode. “In that time you go through two phases. The first is really a technology maturation phase where you’re iterating and getting something that can meet the basic objectives of what the market needs,” says Millecam. “Then you start working on the product development, something you think the broader market can actually use.”
EP Systems is bringing its first product to market, the EPIC, in early 2023, which will be certified under a technical standard order with the FAA. The EPIC is an electric propulsion ion core which is a building block that can be used in fixed-wing and eVTOL applications. The system is designed to be scalable; the smallest application is 10KWh and the largest is currently at 2MWh, says Millecam.
Another part of EP Systems’ “ecosystem approach” was to appoint Drennan as adviser to its board of directors in April 2021. A former Bell Helicopter VP of Innovation and Advanced Concepts with three decades in aviation, Drennan believes battery technology and associated systems will play a critical role in electrifying the aviation ecosystem.
However, in order to make electrification worthwhile the industry needs to ensure the “mine-to-wing” process is completely sustainable. Think of well-to-wing – this is the 21st century version. Almost the entire battery market, in aerospace and elsewhere, uses lithium in the construction of their systems.
“I have been really encouraged by what I have seen in the US and Europe in terms of looking domestically for resources and mining the raw materials in a responsible way. That means not just from an environmental standpoint, but we need just labour practices as well,” says Drennan.
There is another responsibility too. What happens at the back end when you’re done with the battery? EP Systems has a solution. When the batteries come off of the aircraft, they find a second life in a micro-grid which supports the charging infrastructure for the aircraft. “Or it could even be put in a micro-grid for people to use in their homes once the aviation ecosystems are adequately supported,” adds Drennan.