Boeing HorizonX Ventures and Safran Corporate Ventures say they’ve made a joint investment in Utah-based Electric Power Systems, a company whose energy storage products are blazing a trail for electric airplanes.
It’s the latest tie-up for Boeing and Safran, which have partnered up in such ventures as Initium Aerospace, a manufacturer of auxiliary power units for airplanes; and MATIS Aerospace, a company in Morocco that produces wiring products for several airframe and engine companies.
The size of the Series A funding round was not disclosed, but Boeing HorizonX’s investments typically range from millions of dollars to the low tens of millions of dollars.
Representatives of both companies said the funding will help Electric Power Systems develop a highly automated industrial base capable of producing aviation-grade energy storage systems, and advance technologies aimed at reducing the cost of battery systems for electric airplanes.
“EPS’ battery technology meets Boeing’s high standards of safety and can enable significant cost savings for customers,” Brian Schettler, managing director of Boeing HorizonX Ventures said today in a news release. “This strategic investment accelerates the development of clean, quiet and safe urban air mobility solutions.”
Alain Sauret, the president of Safran Electrical & Power, said his company “will collaborate with EPS to offer our customers electric or hybrid-electric propulsion systems with a level of performance that sets us apart from competition.”
“This technology cooperation is emblematic of Safran’s strategy in greener propulsion solutions,” Sauret said.
EPS is already involved in developing energy storage systems for hybrid electric and all-electric planes such as the NASA X-57 Maxwell, the Bye eFlyer and the Bell Nexus. The company’s CEO, Nathan Millecam, said he was thrilled to work with Boeing and Safran.
“Electrification of flight has the potential to fundamentally change how goods, services and humans connect,” Millecam said.
Boeing HorizonX invests in technologies that Boeing can leverage into next-generation products and services, including 3-D printing and augmented reality for manufacturing, autonomous control systems for drones and satellite technologies for space operations. Boeing and one of its subsidiaries, Aurora Flight Sciences, are developing an all-electric passenger air vehicle as well as a heavy-duty cargo air vehicle — which means batteries loom large on Boeing’s tech frontier.
One of HorizonX’s early investments went to Bothell, Wash.-based Zunum Aero, which has been working on technologies for hybrid electric airplanes. Boeing’s enthusiasm for that company has reportedly cooled, however, and Zunum acknowledged in July that it was “navigating a challenging period.”
Another company in the HorizonX portfolio is Cuberg, which is working on advanced technologies for lithium batteries.
Last year, Safran Corporate Ventures made its own investment in a British company called Oxis Energy, which is working on lithium-sulfur cell technologies for battery systems with high energy density.