The Electric Aircraft is Taking Off

In 2008, the electric motor vehicle experienced a rebirth triggered by a rise in oil prices. Now in 2018, it is the time for another rebirth — in electrical aviation. Over the decades, advances have been made across the aviation field on all fronts. In 1986, Burt Rutan made the first non-stop, unrefueled flight around the world.

Now, 30 years later another trip around the world was completed, marking the first electrical-powered circumnavigation. The lofty journey started in Abu Dhabi and 16 months later landed back where its journey began. This plane, unlike others that have made the journey before, emitted no emissions and burned no fuel. Instead, it used solar panels, an electric motor and four massive 41 kWh lithium-ion batteries.

Called Solar Impulse 2, it changed the world of aviation when it completed its flight in 2016. Since then, the vision of an electrically powered commercial airplane has gone from a dream to a possibility.

A future that includes electric flight is a positive one, slashing the fuel use of current aviation, reducing emissions and a creating a cleaner environment.

According to the European Commission, airplane emissions currently account for about 3 percent of total EU greenhouse gas emissions, and about 4 percent of world greenhouse gas emissions. It’s a pretty significant percentage that’s growing at a fast rate. By comparison, the emissions per person on a flight from London to New York is roughly equivalent to a person in the EU heating their home for a whole year.

With electric aviation, these rising emissions could be reduced. It will make more feasible the ambitious EU goal of cutting greenhouse emissions to 40 percent below their 1990 levels by 2030, and to 80 percent of 1990 emissions by 2050.

From the passenger’s perspective, electric aircraft are a massive win. The new planes would result in a cheaper ticket, decreased noise and a higher rate of climb. With an electric engine, planes are able to maintain performance at higher altitudes where the air resistance is less, unlike combustion engines that operate less efficiently at these altitudes. The aircraft engine would therefore have to be less powerful to generate equivalent speed.

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Source: Tech Crunch, July 9 2018