Why Don’t We Have Electric Planes Yet?

Why Don’t We Have Electric Planes Yet?

The invention of flight has been one
of the most profound technologies in history. And for the past century it
has functioned pretty much the same way. But that could all change. The advent of lithium ion
batteries and electric propulsion technologies is igniting a
revolution in transportation. Everything from cars to trucks
and buses are going electric. But what about planes? We call this the
third revolution in aviation. The first was the piston engine that
enabled the Wright brothers to fly their first flight. The second was the
jet engine, which only really was applied to larger planes. And we think the third
revolution is electric propulsion. CO2 emissions and the environmental impact
they pose has moved to the forefront of public attention and has been
one of the driving forces in leading electric vehicle adoption. The aviation industry is one of
the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions. And unlike cars, aviation
is often excluded from national climate plans because it
operates across borders. Between flight and commercial, shipping constitutes
about 5 percent of our total CO2 emissions per year. And these are some of
the hardest CO2 to decarbonize. Aircraft emissions are a
real serious problem. It’s projected to be up to 25
percent of the entire global carbon budget to stay below 1.5 degrees C. According to a 2018 report on
CO2 emissions from commercial aviation, there was a 32 percent increase in
emissions over the five years leading up to the study. And with the
FAA estimating the number of airline passengers in the U.S. will surpass one 1.28 billion by 2038, planes will be a
big source of pollution for years to come. Jet fuel is also one of
the biggest operating costs for airlines, and electric motors have fewer parts to
repair and maintain, making them a more economical option as well. When you look at a jet
engine, there’s thousands of moving parts. A turboprop has 7,000
to 10,000 moving parts. And you have to every 3,000 hours
spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and a lot of time to overhaul them. There’s one moving part in an
electric motor in a plane. An electric propulsion system can reduce
cost of ownership or cost of operation dramatically. Orders of magnitude 40, 50, 60, 70%. But not only do you have lower
maintenance costs, but you also have lower costs in terms of actually providing the
energy required to go from one location to another. With so many benefits, why is it we
have yet to see the electric vehicle movement come to aerospace? Some fundamental problem with electric aircraft
has always been that a good lithium ion battery cell has one
fortieth of the energy content of the equivalent weight of jet fuel. And so if you were to take an
existing airplane and you take out all the fuel and you take out the engines
and the fuel systems and replace those with only batteries, then you would
only fly one twentieth as far. While the electrification of aviation has
been slow to start, the technology is starting to
look more feasible. So there’s been a significant enough
revolution and improvement in the performance of batteries, which the
automotive industry is really driving. It is extremely promising that one
of these battery technologies can be scaled up for electric flight. So the real question is, is not
when will we have electric airplanes? It’s when will the time come where
we can have electric airplanes that fly far enough to then start
replacing conventionally fueled air transport? The first area to be serviced
with electric aircraft will be short regional flights. But battery electric
flight is still in early development. Some of the planes that
have flown have been demonstrated. They’re basically all battery. They’re just carrying their pilot. And they actually don’t even have
the weight to carry passengers right now. But the batteries
are going to improve. Pipistrel is one of the few
all electric plane manufacturers actually building and flying today. Because of limited range and capacity,
they’re primarily used as trainer aircraft. Recently, Harbour Air in
Vancouver, Canada, partnered with MagniX to take its fleet
of seaplanes all electric. It just completed its first successful
flight and is beginning the certification and approval process. Israeli startup Eviation Aircraft showed
off its all electric nine-seat aircraft in summer 2019 at
the Paris Air Show. The company claims the plane will be capable
of flying up to 650 miles and that customers have placed
more than 150 orders. The startup hopes to
begin testing in 2020. There’s companies out there, like Bye
Aerospace and Pipistrel, that are doing, I think, amazing things in the
light sport and the trainer aircraft market, where they could go straight
to electric with those vehicles and the cost of ownership and the
operational cost benefits are really, really compelling. Until battery tech improves,
hybrid electric aircraft is what will be utilized for larger
capacity flights going longer distances. A hybrid electric aircraft would be
an aircraft that would leverage an electric motor and electric propulsion in
addition to the traditional fuel sources that we have today. So one can imagine, just like you
would have a hybrid electric car, you could have a
hybrid electric aircraft. So what we’ve done is we’ve
taken a very, very successful Honeywell helicopter engine and we’ve mounted it with
a special gearbox to two of our ultra efficient generators. So in total, this machine generates
400 kilowatts of power, which is enough to power 40 homes at one time. Ampaire is one startup working on
and testing hybrid electric aircraft. The first plane that Ampaire flew is
our electric eel, and that’s a six seat aircraft, the largest hybrid
electric aircraft that’s ever flown. We’re already building our second copy of
that aircraft, and it’s going to be the first ever to fly on
an actual commercial route demoing daily operations in Hawaii. The test flights will begin next
year in partnership with Mokulele Airlines, flying on a route
based out of Maui. This project is a stepping stone
for worldwide adoption of electric aircraft. So we’ve been working in
programs from everywhere like Norway, where Norway is actually aiming to have
all flights under 90 minutes go electric or hybrid electric by 2040. And you’re looking at the U.K., Scotland initiatives going on right now
to have electric and hybrid electric aircraft. Airlines historically have
struggled to make money on shorter regional flights, but hybrid
planes could change that. In a hybrid, we’re reducing fuel
burn by up to 75 percent. That is transformational for
the economics of airlines. There’s this whole segment of the
market, about 40 billion dollars of revenue that has now been eliminated
from airlines’ balance sheets because they just couldn’t fly
those routes profitably. We’re going to enable them
to fly those routes again. Utilizing hybrid engines in regional aircraft
could also make flight more common in daily life. I think everybody knows how expensive
it is to fly regionally. And part of the reason that this is
the case is that small turbine engines are very inefficient. Electricity from renewable sources
can be very cheap. And in parts of the country
it’s ridiculously cheap, like the Pacific Northwest, compared to jet fuel flying
will be will be a bargain. It’s also going to enable is things
like regional commuting that you have these super-commuters in places like Los Angeles
and the Bay Area that are going to be able to do
things like fly daily, air-pooling. So when could we see
larger commercial airliners go electric? It could be some time. I think there’s a lot of years,
if not decades, before hybrid electric and fully electric propulsion is going to
be viable in that space. And it’s unknown when battery technology
will be sufficient for those longer missions. In the take-off, the amount
of power that is required is specifically related to its weight. Even to have a small passenger plane,
maybe three or four people, go for several hundred miles, you need a battery
that is two to three times more powerful than it is today. It’s more likely that these larger
aircraft will convert to hybrid technology until batteries are capable
of supporting longer flights. When you talk to a Boeing or you
talk to an Airbus about a really big airplane, the conversations in the present tend
to be around how do you make the airplane more
electric versus fully electric? And that does take loads off of the
engines and help reduce the fuel burn of those aircraft and make
those aircraft more efficient. Electric technology also opens up a
host of new efficient designs for future aircraft. There’s kind of
a cascade of benefits. You produce less heat, so it’s easier
to cool your system and your cooling drag goes down. You can
design the plane differently. The electric motors are tiny
compared to an engine. You can put them in different places. So it just opens up
an entire new design space. You compare the amount of energy per
weight that you could put in a battery versus amount of energy per weight
that’s in a gallon of gasoline, it’s enormously different. And what that forces you to do
is to design very, very efficient airplanes. These efficiencies in combination
with the advantages of electric propulsion, enable an entirely new
type of flight: air taxis or urban air mobility. Urban air mobility is really
a new mode of transportation. I would actually call it
a new era in aviation. And that revolution is really to
overcome the traffic problem we’re seeing around big cities. Perhaps you’re 30
miles away from your closest airport. So you could potentially get into one
of these urban air mobility vehicles and fly that short distance that might
take you an hour in traffic, but maybe fifteen minutes in one of
these urban air mobility vehicles. This new segment of transportation has
attracted the attention of Uber, which is hoping to bring its experience
as a rideshare company to flight. We know that congestion is getting worse
and there’s limits to what you can do on the ground. Let’s move
transportation out of the 2D grid into the third dimension. Uber is creating the technology that
will help run the logistical operations of such a service and
partnering with manufacturers to provide the aircraft. When you select Uber
Air, we’ll get you a car. You’ll take that to the sky port. We’ll walk you through the seamless,
minimal time transition into the aircraft, which will then take off fly
to the closest remote skyport to your destination, where a car will meet you
just in time for you to get to your final destination. Urban air
mobility could surpass ground-based services in investor
interest and funding. Morgan Stanley estimates the
market could reach $1.5 trillion by 2040. The evolution has been like
nothing I’ve ever seen. I’ve been in aerospace for decades and
there’s been an influx of capital at each end of the value chain,
from the vehicle manufacturers to the technology to the infrastructure
to the regulatory environment. Hundreds of startups have recently entered
the space, all working to develop their own aircraft. Vahana is developing a short range
vertical takeoff and landing vehicle funded by Airbus. Joby Aviation is
backed by JetBlue Airways and Google’s Larry Page is an investor
in two startups as well. Traditionally, only a few hundred
planes are manufactured a year. The advent of urban air mobility could
change that and have a big impact on the automotive industry. The volumes are gonna be
like nothing we’ve ever seen. In a traditional aerospace market, five
hundred airplanes a year, six hundred airplanes a year, those are
a record-setting numbers of airplanes and for urban air mobility, could be
tens of thousands of vehicles per year. And quite frankly, the
traditional aerospace industry isn’t equipped to support those volumes. Anticipating this convergence of aerospace
and automotive led Honeywell to partner with Denso, one of
the world’s largest automotive suppliers. We talk about urban air mobility, not
as a replacement for an airplane, but as a replacement for a car. And so you have a lot of
automotive companies that are very, very interested in participating
in the market. We build millions of
motors and inverters. And when we bring that kind
of technology and manufacturing know-how to our aerospace customers, it’s seen
as really, really monumental because they are used to building
in such low quantities. Air taxis are only just
starting to enter testing. But how soon could we potentially
see them out in the world? We do see some urban
air mobility operations using conventional helicopters today. But when are we
going to actually see these electric vertical take-off and
landing vehicles? My best guess would be as the
technology develops, we’ll be most likely in the 2035, 2030+ timeframe. We’ve said publicly that we think that
2023 is an achievable date for launch of a real commercial service. It’ll be a handful of vehicles
starting out on key routes. It’s going to start at a price
point that’s a little bit more premium. But before air taxis or fully electric
planes can be a reality, batteries still need to improve. If we want a small air taxi to
fly for, say, five hundred miles, that will require a battery that has more than
double the energy density of today’s electric vehicle batteries. Another roadblock is ensuring it will
be safe and reliable under heavy use. There are 200,000 planes taking
off and landing every day. So the reliability of a battery powered
plane has to be very high. As the technology improves, they’ll be
entering an industry built around heavy regulation. Aircraft manufacturing and
systems are required to undergo intense certification to
ensure reliability and safety. This is no longer
dad’s little Cessna 172. This is a vehicle that needs that
reliability and that safety to move people who are expecting that same experience
that they would get in a 737 in a small vehicle. Not to
mention the logistical obstacles of navigating the crowded airspace. As more flight
technologies come to market, there will be more aircraft in
the skies than ever before. Think about hundreds or even thousands
of these vehicles flying around. They have to stay away from all
the other traffic that’s flying in the space. So not only will we have
to ensure safe operations for the passengers on board, but also for
off nominal cases, ensuring the safety of the folks that are on the ground. And with urban air mobility emerging as
a new field in aviation, a whole new set of research questions and
processes need to be developed between the FAA and vehicle partners. To address these challenge, NASA
has created The Grand Challenge. The Grand Challenges is focused on
providing an ecosystem or a proving ground to enable not only NASA,
but also the FAA, vehicle industry partners and airspace industry partners
to come together to really understand the key questions of what will
be required to enable urban air mobility operations. The hope is that together
they can outline safety certifications, regulation and integration into the
national airspace and urban environments. Seeing an electric plane as a
prototype is quite far from a mass produced one. Unless there is a significant policy shift
to put, for example, a cost on carbon emissions, battery based planes will
have to compete also with jet fuel based planes and currently
the economics do not work. As planes progress toward electric technology,
we should expect it to follow a very similar path to what
we saw in the automobile industry. Where you at one point were talking
about small vehicles like a Nissan Leaf, now you’re talking
about electrifying entire buses. And I think in aerospace or in flying
vehicles, we’re going to see sort of a similar evolution. To stay in service for 30 years, the
aircraft that need to be flying 30 years from now need to
be in development today. I think that we will start
seeing regional electric aircraft happen. And I think that will certainly
be in the next 15 years. Every type of transport is going
electric has already gone electric and planes are next. And it’s
not just some far-out future. It’s happening right now.

100 thoughts on “Why Don’t We Have Electric Planes Yet?”

  1. I feel bad for all those people who are going to be displaced from their jobs.

    #ANDREWYANG is the only candidate who see’s things like this happening-offers a solution- while everyone else ignores it.

    The economy could tank if nothing is done.

  2. Why? It's pretty obvious. The oil companies use their political influence to stifle or stop development of such planes. Truth.

  3. This so called poor idea will take another 30 years plus to develop it. Electric air planes in this video very expensive flying batteries. Could the masses of people afford to buy a ticket & the price be comperble or less than a conventional aircraft? What is the carbon foot print of a conventional vs electric? That's the question that really needs to be answered.

  4. Linear motor catapult could save battery power by launching the plane like on an aircraft carrier but energy density needs to be at least 400kwh/kg to be viable which is about 4 times that of a Tesla battery currently. Let's see what Maxwell has brought to Tesla battery team and whether it will be the Holy Grail of Battery tech.

  5. It sounds like using Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System with electric planes might mitigate a lot of the disadvantage of electric take off.

  6. Charging those batteries are going to be a problem. If not a hybrid engine, an APU will still be needed, it'll add range and/or reduce time btw sorties.

    Or hot swappable battery packs at the LZ's. I believe the fastest way to charge is called "direct DC" but with battery packs so big it'll still take a hot minute.

  7. Ok here is one idea! Why can't we have Hybrid planes where battery powered planes are assisted through Hydrogen Fuel Cells during take offs. I think it is a very viable option

  8. What ever happened to Algae jet fuel that the Air Force was using? Much cleaner and even more power. And it would take 2 days to fill a plane. I'd rather that.

  9. The “urban air mobility vehicles” or small electric helicopters will never be adopted if they are not able to reduce the sound created. Think of a drone, super small and light and you can still hear it a hundred yards away, not think of something 30x bigger. You will hear these for miles and they will be loud, nobody wants helicopters flying over them like cars drive down the street.

  10. The energy density of hydrocarbon fuels is what makes them such a hard habit to break. But even if batteries were available right now, having energy capacities rivaling those of liquid fuels or better, they still must be recharged. Electricity is not an energy source, it's a way to transport energy. Until we're not burning ancient hydrocarbons to keep all the giant alternators spinning, rechargeable ANYTHING does little to solve our CO2 emission problem.

  11. The electric aircraft is already a reality in the American military. The truth is that the wireless transmission of electrical energy to craft aloft is a done deal. Don't expect them to buck the oil companies any time soon. No more lifting more fuel just to lift more fuel. The military craft aren't "planes" as you know them. They encompass both drone and piloted craft using field propulsion technology. Even wings are optional, and are sometimes just part of the disguise. They have it covered without breakthrough battery technology.

  12. Pipedreams. Commercial air taxis ain't gonna happen in the next 3 decades. So many safety concerns and legal liabilities that need to be litigated, plus the technology simply isn't anywhere near where it needs to be in order to become commercially viable

  13. The day gasoline is irrelevant you’ll never know because they’ll be a war that changes the planet , this energy and electric system is almost 80 years old , it’s been snuffed out and hidden , because gasoline rules and not because of its productiveness but because of its grip on MONEY

  14. NOT true a town in Calif in has 4 electric planes used for training purposes. They even partnered with Boeing who donated 2 flight simulators for training.

  15. What about the turn around time at the airport? Aeroplanes do not make money when sitting on the ground. They only make money when in the air. Accumulators currently take far too long to charge. The move is to electric vehicles is based on a fallacy that the climate is significantly affected by Carbon dioxide levels. It is not. Carbon Dioxide is only responsible for 10% of the planetary green house effect.

  16. If you think high density airports are bad now, imagine when you have to let airplanes sit for hours to charge the plane.

  17. I think the issue with battery flight is trying to match what the engine does when we should work on what the fuel does… I worked on this for years and found that battery flight needs high pressure chambers rather than trying to match thrust of combustion…

  18. Hahaha what’s a battery?? A thing used to store energy! So how do you charge it? We run diesel generators or burn coal to make electricity then store it in the batteries it’s zero emissions!!!!!

  19. hhow about solenoid engine in electric plane solenoid engine is more efficient then ac dc motors i mean solenoid radial engine take less than motors and in petrol bike there is arc to ignite air petrol that is very less electrons and high voltage same theory applies in solenoid engine

  20. Watch Engineering Explained’s illustration on comparing the energy density of a battery as opposed to a gallon of gasoline. WEIGHT matters to an aircraft much more than a car!

  21. Why not just install one jet engine that is dedicated to charging the batteries, that power the main electric motors on the wings of commercial flights? kind of like trains. I know it's a hybrid, but it's a different kind of hybrid than cars.

  22. The answer is they have not built receptacles in the sky yet, nor have they worked out what to do with all those electrical cords. Ha-ha

  23. What about the ufo that are seen in USA on regular basis ?? Do they run on diesel or gasoline or some other fuel ??

  24. I have a feeling… We'll always need some form of aviation kerosene but we may only need a bit. I don't think anything will ever be as effective. The kerosene will take the aircraft to cruising altitude, and the momentum and the increasingly accelerating wind/jetstream will function as a time to recharge or somehow gain regenerative braking by spinning the turbofans so that it gains enough power when it's time to land.

    As for the flying taxi, don't trust it. Only China and Japan and certain cities will have flying cars and that's only slightly more than Sao Paulo. Urban air mobility is VERY VERY loud. Urban air mobility in the west is only to incite public interest but the actual use, is for autonomous electric vehicles.

  25. So hopefully it has a universal plug. Guess why I say that? Anyone? So I can laugh and laugh. Maybe they to would laugh and laugh. Just saying.

  26. Existing electric technology doesn't work for extra large passenger planes travellings long distances. So we need iron Man type of tecnology to power aeroplanes.

  27. Ok so planes will be up to 25% of emissions in the future even though engines are becoming more and more fuel efficient but mining for battery resources isn’t adding to the emissions of the world 🧐🧐🧐 got the agenda already…

  28. Batteries did not really evolved since they have been created . No major breakthrough like the transistors to the microchips . If what happened between the transistors to the microchips happened to batteries you’d be able to power your house with a single AAA batterie.

  29. people who ask stupid questions like this are so technically uninformed that they need to be rounded up and sent to a third world economy where they won't be challenged by such technical issues as say a light switch. At least half of the climate change idiots are in this camp, these folks have confused political science with real science.

  30. "The aviation industry is heavily regulated to insure passenger safety"…..except when it gets captured by the aviation business, LoL.

  31. They do exist as single prop planes that fly for about an hour, and are mostly used in training new pilots to practice takeoffs and landings. You take off, you circle around, you land, then you repeat this process until the battery runs low, then you continue training with a fully charged plane while the one you flew in recharges.

  32. Omg would plane drop from the air when it run out of battery? If a car doesnt work when it runs out of battery than why wouldn't a plane do the same thing? It would only benefit the companies and not the people boarding the planes. It's too early to be doing such thing with planes when they havent figure out how to solve cars need to constantly recharge.

  33. I think this might just be a hype video to prep people to accept electric planes in the future. Why dont they ever talk about the negative part of using new things? Purposely avoiding talking about both negative and positive and only talking about positive side of something let's you know they are trying to influence our thinking.

  34. 6:31: So, they want to try to decrease CO2 emissions by making the planes slightly more efficient (which wont happen with the hybrid systems that they're proposing) and then make regional air travel a more common way to travel? Using regional air travel more often would just offset any reduction in CO2 emissions that they managed to gain by improving the efficiency of the aircraft… which can't be done by making the aircraft heavier with a hybrid system anyway. WTF is wrong with these people?

  35. You have to put solar cells on the wings and fuselage; it would be stupid not to make use of all that real estate.

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