The newbies include Eviation, an Israeli firm that expects its models with propellers on the wingtips to take off in 2019, Germany’s Lilium, with its electric vertical take-off and landing taxi jet for five people, and Zunum Aero, a hybrid plane company in Washington state preparing to test flights in 2019.
Samuel Engel, senior vice president at consulting firm ICF’s aviation group, considers the concept of electric passenger planes operating like the daily afternoon Southwest flight from Atlanta to Las Vegas as “experimental. “We’re more likely to teleport in my lifetime than see large-scale commercial electric aircraft,” he said.
Instead of building a plane around a gas-guzzling engine and huge engine-cooling radiators, electric planes need to design around a battery.
Electric is also quieter and cleaner, opening up possibilities to fly different routes and times out of reach for traditional airplanes because of noise restrictions in residential and urban areas. Electric planes. Flying cars. EVTOLs. Passenger drones. Flying pods. Flying taxis. Hybrid-electrics.
Electric planes use batteries to power an electric motor instead of jet fuel to power an engine.
Instead of only two people on a 300-mile flight, like the June 2011 e-Genius flight out of Germany, the electric plane industry wants to one day match what we consider everyday commercial flights.
Ampaire founders imagine six- and 19-passenger electric planes, while Wright Electric representatives dream of a fuel-free 150-seater plane.
Companies like Los Angeles-area startups Ampaire and Wright Electric are working on planes for regional travel.
And “the fuel cost is not only reduced but gone,” said Roei Ganzarski, CEO of MagniX, which is developing motors for electric planes in Redmond, Washington.
This rendering shows the plane high above the clouds. “A long tail of activities that happened in the past decade have led to this little explosion in electrification,” Kevin Noertker, CEO and co-founder of electric aviation startup Ampaire, said.
Eviation has set 2019 as a take-off date to start testing fully electric flights and 2022 as when regular customers can buy a ticket for an all-electric regional commuter flight.
Ampaire’s Noertker, a mechanical engineer who came from traditional aerospace company Northrop Grumman, sees aviation electrification as an extension of what’s happening with electric cars and other vehicles on the ground.
Aviation startups are working to remove expensive, polluting jet fuel from the flight equation and replace it with electric batteries.
Smaller contraptions certainly advance the playing field, but the taxi-like aircraft UberAir is proposing for long-distance commuting is in a whole other ball game than a 737 jet taking 150 passengers from San Francisco to LAX while running on electric power.
To get these aircraft flying, all the companies are working with batteries, electric motors, wings, and some even with propellers.
Air New Zealand plans to use Kitty Hawk’s Cora autonomous electric taxi planes for shorter trips throughout New Zealand, although the airline hasn’t set a launch date yet.
By the end of this year, Ampaire wants to retrofit a six-passenger plane into an electric and hybrid craft, called TailWind.
But that doesn’t mean we won’t see electric planes up in the sky — he acknowledges the determined startups will make something work.
Ganzarski aims to fly a converted electric Cessna 208 Caravan by fall 2019. “The engine doesn’t care if it’s boxes or people” on board, Ganzarski said.
Then there are hybrid planes, which use a combination of electric and gas power.
Engel, the skeptic analyst, is more optimistic that hybrid electric planes will take off sooner than their all-electric cousins.
Back in 2011 that flight path was hailed as the longest distance flown by an electric aircraft carrying people.
By 2025, Lilium customers are expected to be booking on-demand electric taxi planes.
The idea of electric planes isn’t new, but we’re closer than we’ve ever been thanks to battery improvements.
All that jet fuel takes a toll, but electric planes may swoop in and help — one day.
French military engineers Charles Renard and Arthur Constantin Krebs added batteries and an electric motor to an 1880s aircraft, according to Air and Space Magazine.
Eviation’s Bar-Yohay compares electric planes to its traditional fuel-powered equivalent.
The recent explosion in electric flight comes with a fairly lengthy list of startups in an industry that doesn’t usually have a startup culture.
Usually the smaller flying contraptions and electric vertical, take-off, and landing vehicles (the eVTOLs), or passenger drones, are intended to fly a few people at a time.
They need a motor that can turn electric power into mechanical energy — and they need a battery.
Now, many companies want flyers to believe in electric planes.
The future of flying is electric planes https://t.co/IcgAQWc8ym— Mashable (@mashable) September 3, 2020