Experimental Electric Aeroplanes Are Taking to the Skies
Electric cars have been around for a while now. They are often a topic of discussion among people who want to find ways to cut CO2 emissions and live greener. The technology has improved, bringing us even more ways to phase out fossil fuels.
Bigger vehicles like Tesla’s all-electric Class 8 semi truck are impressive and add to the versatility of renewable energy. But there’s another advancement that Connect Electric feels should be on everyone’s radar.
The Biggest Electric Commerical Aircraft Takes Off
A Washington State airfield nestled between stretches of farmland made renewable history as the departure point for the biggest electrical commercial aeroplane thus far. The craft took off and flew for 30 minutes on 28 May 2020.
Its journey took it over Grant County International Airport where a crowd of observers cheered.
The aircraft in question was a modified Cessna Caravan 208B. It can carry up to 9 passengers. It only had one seat installed for the pilot at the time of the flight.
A small group of 9 sounds like nothing compared to the 200 to 300-seat aeroplanes that deliver passengers for holidays and work trips. Or the massive double-decker models that fly across entire continents. It may be tiny in comparison, but it was still an important first step.
Despite its small stature, the experimental plane is a noteworthy achievement for AeroTEC and MagniX. The two companies provided the electric motor and were pleased with the results.
MagniX CEO Roei Ganzarski stated that the price of flying the Cessna was a mere $6 USD (approximately $8.75 AUD). The same trip using conventional fuel would have cost around $437 to $583 AUD.
Starting Small Yields Big Results
This isn’t the first time that electricity has allowed man to fly. Previous experiments have been successfully completed that used smaller aircraft with electric engines supplied by MagniX. Those smaller endeavours are what pushes research and development toward bigger results.
It’s important to remain realistic about the timeline for full-sized commercial flights that rely on a renewable fuel source. We most likely won’t see a 100% electric-powered large-scale commercial aircraft anytime soon, or even within the next half a century. However, the technology will continue to improve and allow us to make air travel more efficient and affordable.
Energy density is one of the problems researchers face. This term refers to the number of watt-hours you can get per kilogram. Today’s lithium-ion battery has an energy density that could reach up to 250 Wh per kg while jet fuel is closer to 12,000 Wh per kg.
While that sounds like a significant difference, electrical propulsion systems help close the gap with efficient designs. They require less energy to cover more miles compared to traditional systems.
Even with that extra efficiency, fossil fuel models are still 14 times more energy-rich. Batteries can also be awkward to add to an aircraft due to their rigid shape and bulk. Liquid fuel can accommodate different shapes, like fitting inside a wing.
It may take time, but eventually, we will find ways to address these challenges and bring clean, renewable energy to the airline industry.