Lithium-ion aircraft battery manufacturer True Blue Power introduced its new, fifth-generation (Gen5) main-ship batteries at HAI Heli-Expo in Atlanta on March 5.
Engineered to address the many challenges that lead-acid and nickel cadmium (nicad) technologies present, the True Blue Power Gen5 battery family eliminates expensive battery maintenance, frequent capacity checks, low-voltage operational delays, and most battery-related aircraft-on-ground situations.
“If you make a list of everything aircraft owners and operators dislike about lead-acid or NiCad batteries and compare that to the advanced features and benefits that our fifth-generation batteries deliver, you’ll find we’ve eliminated all of those pain points and maximized every advantage lithium-ion technology provides,” said Todd Winter, True Blue Power president and CEO. “We’ve been fine-tuning this revolutionary technology for more than a decade. Our batteries are safer, smarter, lighter, and far more cost effective than our nearest competition.”
Eliminating scheduled battery maintenance and frequent capacity checks will save owners and operators as much as 90 percent in total maintenance cost. These battery systems simply indicate if attention is ever needed, and they communicate real-time state-of-charge and state-of-health data. Battery configurations are programmed to meet the needs of each specific aircraft. The built-in test indicator provides state of charge without external test equipment, load banks, or auxiliary power.
The Gen5 lithium-ion batteries weigh up to 60 percent less and deliver more amp hours per pound than any other aircraft battery, which translates into more power for engine starts, more energy for emergency and back-up power, ultra-fast recharging, and much longer life.
“Customers use batteries to meet different needs,” Winter explained. Perhaps engine start is the primary consideration, or powering mission-critical ancillary equipment. “The weight savings are very good,” he said. “On bigger helicopters they get the performance benefits as well, but we might be saving them 100 pounds. Reduced maintenance, that’s like icing on the cake.”
Boeing is the only other company that has been able to certify this type of battery—and it uses a different chemistry, Winter added. “We have selected a lithium chemistry that’s safe and certifiable, and it’s really fantastic for a traditional role,” providing three times more energy per pound than lead-acid or nicad batteries.
“We stay true to our cell chemistry,” said Erik Ritzman, True Blue Power director. “The big thing about Gen5 is the decade of us doing what we said we would do, and improving it year over year.”
True Blue Power uses a consistent battery architecture. A lot of its performance gains come from the battery management system, which provides the battery’s state of charge and state of health. “This is the holy grail across any kind of battery application,” Winter said, and can provide feedback to the pilot or to the aircraft’s systems. “A lot of these changes include what we have learned in the real world,” whether from original aircraft manufacturers or aftermarket applications. “The goal is that the battery is on the aircraft and you don’t have to think about it.”
“It takes out maintenance, and [the pilot] can enjoy flying,” Ritzman said. For example, in cold temperatures an integrated heater allows battery operations to minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit. “We like to eliminate all those limitations.”
The Gen5’s 20, 30, and 40 amp hour batteries can be combined to meet specific power needs. “It’s a good building-block capability,” Winter said. And the modular nature helps the company to make batteries more efficiently. “We want the ultimate quality and the ultimate durability,” he said.
True Blue Power, a division of Mid-Continent Instrument Co., designs and manufactures power solutions for the global aerospace industry, including USB charging ports, inverters, voltage converters, emergency power supplies, and advanced lithium-ion batteries. Its proprietary NanoPhosphate lithium-ion battery technology used in some products offers stable chemistry, faster charging, consistent output, excellent cycle life, and superior cost performance. Those attributes result in smaller, lighter products that can be less than half the size and weight of existing solutions.