Battery-Powered Planes Could Transform Regional Travel

Battery-Powered Planes Could Transform Regional Travel
Hotels, Hospitality & Travel

All-electric commercial planes are getting close to a reality, and could transport passengers on short journeys for a fraction of the cost

Leo Lutero
  • 8 may 2018

The weight of batteries versus the amount of energy they carry has been keeping the dream of all-electric planes on the ground. But with improvements in the field of materials engineering, startup Eviation is confident that it’s time to seriously consider building airplanes powered entirely by batteries.

Off the bat, Eviation won’t be competing with the Airbus A340 or Boeing 747. Instead, the new breed of airplanes will fly shorter distances and ferry fewer passengers.

The Eviation website has a dedicated page for a concept model called “Alice,” its potential first aircraft. The plane features three propellers: a main one in the rear and two smaller propellers on each wing. It’s a very small plane, with a seating capacity of just nine passengers and two pilots. The projected range is a meager 650 miles, but it’s far enough for flights between San Francisco and Los Angeles (a 347-mile distance).

The Israel-based startup thinks its gateway into the airline industry lies in ultra-short flights. Without requiring expensive jet fuel, it could overtake established players like Cessna. And the company is not even considering building hybrids. In an interview with Fast Company, co-founder and CEO Omer Bar-Yohay said, “If you look at the numbers, the overall cost of maintaining the cost of complexity of a hybrid unit compared to just swapping batteries every two years or so—the batteries win hands down.”

In a Facebook post, Eviation announced Alice will be using Kokam batteries. The same batteries have been used on the Solar Impulse 2, a solar plane that charges the batteries in the daytime so it can continue to fly at night. Solar Impulse 2 was a successful concept plane for all-electric motors and in-flight batteries. The specially designed aircraft remained airborne for over 21 hours in one flight. Kokam batteries are also currently use in drones, among other specialist aircraft. Just for comparison, the Tesla Model 3 battery pack has an energy density of 130 Wh/kg. Kokam’s batteries are rated twice of that.

To make the planes less energy-consuming to fly, they must also be lightweight. Bar-Yohay isn’t shy to test out never-been-used materials. In a video interview, he can be seen talking about lightweight superstrong composite Nylon 12 and how it can be used for Eviation’s airplanes.

Eviation

The weight of batteries versus the amount of energy they carry has been keeping the dream of all-electric planes on the ground. But with improvements in the field of materials engineering, startup Eviation is confident that it’s time to seriously consider building airplanes powered entirely by batteries.

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+Automotive
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+USA

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