Editor's note: guest blogger Isaac Campbell, a technology enthusiast with an interest in electric planes and the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket works for Lektro. In his guest blog for Things With Wings, Isaac asks: is the future of aviation in electric aircraft?
The development of airplanes has come a long way since the first controlled and powered airplane was invented and flown by the Wright brothers in 1903. We have gone from a small, one seater airplane, to huge planes that can seat over 500 people. Airplanes are continually progressing, and all-electric airplanes may be our future.
This may come as no surprise, as companies such as Lektro have already brought all-electric technology to the aviation industry with electric airplane tugs. But now, advances in technology have allowed all-electric technology to lift off the ground with the invention of small electric planes. The GreenWing e430, for instance, has been designed as a two-seater and uses a Yuneec OEM 133.2V electric motor. It can fly at a top speed of 68mph for about an hour and a half and is supposed to be a fun, ecofriendly plane.
The idea of an all-electric plane has been around for over forty years, but as of yet, a commercial all-electric aircraft has not been produced. The largest electric plane that has been invented so far is a two seater: the Cessna 172. This plane uses lithium batteries to provide energy and can fly for two hours at a time and is still completing development.
So let’s look more closely at the details of electric airplanes in the following sections:
The Potential of Electric Airplanes is in…
… Fuel efficiency
All electric planes will have less negative impact on our environment because of the fact that they will not burn fuel. Today, Boeing’s 747 uses five gallons of fuel every mile. This means that about 36,000 gallons of fuel are being burned during a 10-hour flight.
If we could potentially reduce this number to zero in the next 20-30 years, we could greatly reduce our impact on the environment.
Battery powered engines are quiet, which will significantly reduce the noise on the airplanes and runway.
Perhaps the most convenient part of using all electric planes is that expenses could be significantly reduced. Even at the present, researchers are developing electric taxiing systems that allow a grounded aircraft to taxi without turning on its engine, which reduces the fuel used, noise produced, and allows the taxi process to be completed faster. Because of the fuel saved, that also translates to money being saved as well. For example, a 747 currently uses an average of 330 gallons of fuel to taxi. A system is currently being developed that uses electric energy, and only 8 gallons of fuel, that should be finished by 2015. This is a huge fuel saving, and would save about $200,000 per aircraft, each year.
Just imagine the amount of money that would be saved with completely changing to electric energy if using electric energy and 8 gallons of gas saves $200,000 per aircraft already.
The Future of Aviation is in...
In order to produce fully electric planes, the first step that developers will take is producing a battery that weighs the least possible, takes up the least amount of space, and holds an exceptional amount of power.
Since more energy is used the heavier an airplane is, companies will produce lightweight parts from fiberglass and other such materials in order to cut down on the energy needed.
...Electric Mid-sized Crafts
Once better batteries and materials are produced, companies will be able to develop larger all electric planes. At the moment, a two seater is the largest all electric aircraft invented. However, as better parts are created, larger planes will be produced as well.
...Electric Commercial Aircraft
The hope for all electric airplanes is to not only have them available for private use, but for commercial use as well. Since the U.S alone uses over 18 billion gallons of jet fuel each year, expanding the use of electric planes to the commercial field will significantly reduce the U.S’s carbon output.
...A Complete Turn from Petroleum
The end result of creating electric planes will be a complete end of the use of petroleum for fuel. Once this happens, not only will we be saving our environment, but we will be saving money and time as well.
Inventions such as a competent battery, ultra-light frame, etc. are not expected to be perfected until 2030-2040, making all electric planes a concept for the future. However, the future is bright, so fasten your seatbelts! Electric aviation is about to take off.