An Electric-Powered Airplane Might Be A Distant Future After All

In 2016 we saw how plane is powered with a solar energy and in 2017 we were introduced with the idea of electric-powered jets. Zero emission jet was planned to be the future of aviation and it was predicted to be here by 2022. Few years left and with issues emerging, we see that it is far more complicated than it was thought to be.

Nowadays we have many startups and companies that are developing the electric-powered planes. Many prototypes are even designed to be zero emission. But we will need to wait until the next decade for them to see the daylight.

Still, even if they are the future product, we are keen to know about them now. Because in TV shows and movies we see them looking like spaceships. But in reality they are far more different. They appear to be slim and futuristic with only some space for the passengers. The plane-helicopter hybrids that will be made from lightweight carbon fiber.

Around 20 companies, including Airbus and Boeing, are developing the idea of an aircraft with battery-electric that would also eliminate the noise and pollution.

What is the problem?

The issue comes when we talk about the energy question. Because flying requires a lot of energy. And batteries for them are too heavy and expensive to be used. For example, the technology that lets Tesla to put 300 miles of range out of a Model 3 is not enough to power more than a two seat aircraft.

The batteries we have today do not contain such energy that we need for the battery-electric planes. Most of them can't even give the speed for the aircraft to takeoff. But in the future it might be possible to extend the density of the battery.

We might have to wait for few decades but the future of commercial aviation would change forever.

Solar Impulse 2

In 2016, Solar Impulse 2 was the first solar-powered plane that completed his journey and crossed the Atlantic. Later, the airplane spent 10 months in a hangar where the repairs were done.

The journey of Solar Impulse 2 was important because the main aim of this was to show the potential of clean, solar energy and the possible future of aviation.

The work of startups

Most of the startups that work with electric-powered planes, believe to release their projects by 2022 or later. Google founder Larry Page's project Kitty Hawk, a short-range one seated Flyer, was already presented to public. An electric jet startup, Zunum Aero, is planning to present its 12-passenger hybrid electric jet by 2022.

Uber, the highly known company, also have plans to test electric-powered vertical takeoff and landing aircraft in two years. They hired Tesla professional, Celina Mikolajczak, to develop a battery form for an aircraft. But she pointed out that batteries have a habit to catch fire. And that only the skill, to know how to prevent those fires or make sure they will not be catastrophic, is needed here.

In May there was an experiment made near Budapest. An electric-powered aircraft crashed few minutes after the takeoff and killed its only passenger. The cause was unknown, the authorities said.

But it made it clear that taking out the jet fuel and replacing it with batteries will be harder than it looked like.