Rare Earths: Taking flight

ACCEL (Accelerating the Electrification of Flight)

Rolls-Royce, in collaboration with the UK government, YASA and Electroflight, is designing what it hopes to be the world’s fastest all-electric airplane, the ACCEL (Accelerating the Electrification of Flight).

In other news, the commercial six-seater Harbour Air ePlane, with an engine designed by Australian engineering firm MagniX, has taken flight in Canada performing a 15-minute trial flight. If all safety tests are passed, the company plans to electrify its 40-strong fleet to carry 500,000 passengers a year between Vancouver and surrounding islands.

Roskill View

Electric planes are gaining similar attention to electric vehicles with respect to their industry’s environmental impact and carbon footprint. Both industries are benefitting from rare earth technologies, specifically those concerning rare earths in permanent magnets. Rare earth permanent magnets offer the highest power-to-weight ratio compared to competing technologies, which allows manufacturers of electric transportation to optimise weight and performance. These are two parameters, which become more critical when taking transportation to the air.

YASA and MagniX use permanent magnet technologies in their motors. While the Harbour Air ePlanes (MagniX) would need only several kilograms of rare earth magnets to power each plane, YASA is pursuing axial-flux technologies to get even more juice out of size-restricted electric motors by loading more magnets into the drivetrain. Nevertheless, even at higher loadings of rare earth magnets in motors for air travel, the aerospace industry will remain dwarfed by the expectations for the electrification of the automotive industry.

Roskill published the 19th edition of its Rare Earths: Outlook to 2029 report in January 2020. The report outlines supply, demand, trade and prices for 15 elements and provides an updated price forecast. For more information or to subscribe click here.

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This article was written by Nils Backeberg. Please get in touch below if you wish to discuss further:

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