Flemish and Walloon companies join forces for electric plane batteries


Aircraft burn kerosene, releasing CO₂ and other greenhouse gases. To combat the resulting carbon effect, Genk-based technology start-up Solithor and aerospace company Sonaca of Gosselies near Charleroi are teaming up to develop lithium solid-state batteries for regional aircraft.

Solithor, a spin-off of the Leuven research centre imec, will be in charge of cell research, development, format design and production of 10Ah-40Ah battery cells in Sint-Truiden. Ah stands for ampere-hour. Meanwhile, Sonaca will be developing the battery packaging - including all associated management systems - certify the battery systems and integrate them at its Gosselies plant. As such, the core activities in research, development, production and integration of cells and battery systems for aircraft propulsion are neatly divided between the two Belgian players. For now, the focus is on aircraft, but the partnership is due to expand to include satellite and defence systems.

Innovative batteries are expected to be a reality by 2026-2028 on regional flights of up to five hours. For longer travel times, standard liquid jet fuel is still needed. After all, such batteries require bulk and weight that present major aerodynamic challenges. They do aim to use low-carbon fuels by 2035 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.