14 thoughts on “Pilots’ View: The Future of Electric Flight?

  1. I’m not that surprised at all. Battery energy density has shrunk considerably over the past decade and continues to do so. Prices have also come down a lot and the four-wheel transportation has pushed the envelop well enough. The SunFlyer, aEro and other startups are well funded and filled with the right engineers and visionaries. Lastly, an electric airplane is simply cheaper to operate. You can’t argue against that very well.

  2. @ Mr. Zart: “…simply cheaper to operate.” All aircraft operators want a cheaper to operate machine. Mr. Zart said it perfectly. We are a long way still, from small enough batteries to fly all electric and still have useful load/range. The (automobile)BMW i3 with range extender is perfect example of future flying machines. You have the range, plus a motor to make up the difference, if needed.

  3. I drive an electric car which has a royal problem with range anxiety and recharging time. If General Aviation could think of a simple battery swapping technique at the destination airport, pilots would easily swap batteries in less time to fuel up with oil and aviation fuel. Flight schools could transfer the cost saving to prospective new students. Less noise and less pollution. In other words, electric planes make more sense then electric cars.

  4. Boeing is looking into electric flight. Since 85% of thrust is bypass air, once the plane has reached cruising altitude, electricity can turn the blades, which compress the bypass air, and it can cruise on 85% of power. With new computers on the ground, controllers can permit a plane to start descending hundreds of miles from its destination, in a glide still using electricity. At the outer marker, a normal approach can begin.
    Takeoff in the future is a different kettle of fish: As theft is racing down the runway, the announcement comes on: Good day, Ladies and Gentlemen. Welcome aboard your first fully automated, fully automated, fully automated ….

  5. Batteries still need to improve a lot before electric airplanes become common. If they can get the battery life up to 2 hours, with replaceable battery packs, flight schools *might* find them economical. The Pipistrel Alpha Electro looks promising, but not quite there yet.

  6. Hi..I read where there is a company testing a plane with a 300hp electric motor, I can see that as a retrofit on alot of general avaition planes provided they could get battery’s to last longer…….I’d love to have one on my skyhawk

  7. The reason that I believe in limited penetration of electric driven planes is that it will limit greatly the use of electric planes based on infra structure. (Same challenge that Tesla has).

    For private pilots it will require a hanger with power to keep the planes charged and the flight will have to be limited to airports that provide charge.

    One of the benefits of combustion engines is that even if you lose your battery or alternator the engine continues to work and you are able to land at a nearby airport.

    So regardless how battery technology (and price) evolves, the infra structure will limit the most important goal of private aviation.

    Electric driven trains and buses are based on routs that are supported by infra structure (charging). Thus commercial aviation may be a netter fit for electric driven plane.

    The question will then become weight. Can batteries supply the same energy than jet fuel per weight.

  8. You can’t have a Li-Po powered lap top in a commercial flight baggage hold. If that is a problem then imagine the problem facing a GA plane with a BIG Li-Po battery?

  9. I believe that like cars, there will be a hybrid airplane in the near future but until battery technology has improved quite a bit and perhaps solar wing panels, I don’t see a totally electric powered plane in the very near future. Totally electric cars at present only allow for fairly short distance travel before a re-charge, the same scenario in an airplane just would not be feasible.

  10. Electric powered aircraft will come into their own in the primary flight school market where they will prove to be extremely cost effective. They don’t have long legs but as most instructional flights are less then 2 hours and maintenance should be much lower, they make great ecomomic sense in that market. The important major barrier, which many are working on, is easily interchangeable battery packs. If an elegant solution is found that will allow quick turnaround by swapping batteries and then placing one set of batteries on charge while the aircraft continues to fly, I feel that electric aircraft will eventually dominate primary flight training in both the fixed wing and helicopter markets.
    New breakthroughs in battery technology however must be made if electric airplanes are to compete in the mainstream GA market.

  11. yes Nicolas
    its true , you are right 100%

    but I thing its will take at lest five years to be in market for flying

  12. No Doubt there is a future for electric aircraft. However battery technology, although vastly improved, still must make some major leaps before it is a viable alternative.

  13. The best Lithium batteries still have energy density/weight 10 time that of gasoline and given the laws of chemistry can’t really improve by a factor of 10. Weight is all important when flying and so I don’t see batteries becoming the primary fuel source – maybe an adjunct to provide the extra power needed for take off & climb with a smaller, lighter more efficient ICE providing cruise power.

    The drive to replace gas is eliminating pollution, CO2 & lead. Perhaps hydrogen fuel carried in Kevlar tanks will prove more feasible.

  14. Well what happened to diesel powered aircraft?? About 15 years ago they were the new kids on the block and aircraft mags flounted their virtues. Cessna powered up 182 and others had twins running around boasting about their power and economy but we can’t find them now. I hope I’m wrong but I have a feeling that electric aircraft will go the same way. Go back a little further and we were all looking at the Chevy 350 with a gearbox but I don’t see too many of them around. If we took a hard look at progress we would wonder why in this day and age we can’t stop a primitive 6 cylinder under stressed gas gobbler from cracking…..electric aircraft?? We will be another 50 years sorting out connections etc or re inventing the steam engine.

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