Have you ever known how aircraft fly over the sky…? The majority of you say from the engines attached to them. Of course, or what else. Aircraft gains forward thrust by the engines attached, but how do the engines run…? Imagine the engine as the heart of the aircraft and fuel is the blood that drives the heart.
Since the good old days in aviation, the fossil fuel type was the blood of the aircraft as no other substitute. But due to the negative impact caused to the environment, the man struggled to replace it with electric power or hybrid over the years.
Fortunately, human ability superseded this challenge recently. Trends show the Fossil fuel factor is becoming less usage and the electric flying era will be the next phase in aviation.
Currently, dominating aircraft manufacturers hover over their future production line towards the electric-driven birds. Who will become the “Tesla”.? let’s get electrified.
ROOT CAUSE BEHIND ELECTRIC AIRCRAFT
Similar to a motor vehicle, aircraft emits CO2, water vapor, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, carbon monoxide, and partially combusted hydrocarbons to the environment.
About 10% of the emissions are close to the surface of the earth and 90% are emitted at an altitude above 3000 feet. That 90% includes not only the aircraft emissions but the emission by shuttle buses, vans serving passengers, and ground support equipment also.
This effect continuously getting worsen each year due to the expansion of air passenger transportation around the globe. This factor led to emerging concepts like hybrid and electric aircraft into the sky.
ELECTRIC AIRCRAFT CONCEPT
This concept came into the aviation industry at the beginning of the 21st century. The electrical concept from the UAVs, driven to manufacturer from a small scale one man seated aircraft to a manufacturing electrical propeller-driven aircraft accommodating nine passengers. Major aircraft manufacturers like
Airbus, Boeing, Embraer, and other related companies like Rolls-Royce, Siemens are in the mode of manufacturing and testing their models recently.
Even though environmental pollution acts as a root cause, this concept has other important benefits too. Fuel efficiency and peak power of aircraft are increasing when using the parallel drive of motor-generator in hybrid aircraft.
The noise & vibration effect is much lower when compared to fossil fuel aircraft. The other main reason is the less weight of electrical engine concept. Although these concepts give you thumbs up to be implemented, they lack performance in the practical environment. But recently many air mobility investments groups are eager to contribute financially to electric aviation.
As per market research, the global market for electric private jets will reach $30 billion by 2030 with intruding new electric aviation companies in the industry.
NEW PLAYERS ON THE FIELD
With the influence of the covid pandemic over 2 last couple of years, the demand for new aircraft on the market declined. The stringent regulations towards fuel emission opened new aircraft OEM companies to appear in partnership with Engine manufacturers and aviation professionals on developing electric aviation background.
Apart from major players, Airflow, Beta Technologies, Heart Aerospace, Universal Hydrogen, Wright Electric, ZeroAvia are among upcoming electric aircraft-focused manufacturers.
Airflow and Beta technologies are currently working on developing Electric Short Takeoff and Landing (ESTOL) and Vertical Take-Off and Landing electric-powered aircraft. The “Ava XC” EVTOL by Beta technologies, “Heart ES-19” regional passenger aircraft with a backup energy reserve capability, and “Alpha Electro G2” by Avinor are some of the recent electric aircraft that have been tested successfully and on the fence of entering into commercial aviation.
Not only these Wright Electric has teamed up with EasyJet for developing a fully electrifying Airbus A320Neos to lower carbon emission and noise footprint and expect to make aviation free-emission within 20 years which would be a remarkable approach in the industry.
RECENT APPROACH & CHALLENGES
In 2020 mid, the Cessna Caravan retrofitted with an electric engine developed by MagniX was successfully taken off in the USA, thus holding the first large all electrical airplane in the world. This aircraft flew at more than 100 mph and had a flight time of around 28 minutes in the sky. The engine is powered by a 750 HP electric motor with 2000 pounds of lithium-ion battery power.
Major players, Airbus & Boeing also have worked on hybrid aircraft such as “E-Fan X”, “Zunum” which have more positive results towards electric and hybrid passenger aircraft. The E-fan X concept was canceled amid the Covid pandemic but it paved the way to develop the electric phase in the aviation market.
The “National Aeronautics and Space Administration” (NASA) has announced the selection of two businesses namely GE Aviation & MagniX to assist its Electric Powertrain Flight Demonstration (EPFD), which will use ground and flight demonstrations to rapidly mature Electrified Aircraft Propulsion (EAP) technology. NASA hopes to bring EAP technology to US aircraft fleets by 2035, supporting short-range and regional commercial air travel, as well as single-aisle seat transports, through this effort.
The main challenge for electric aircraft is the shorter flight range. The amount of electric power given by the motor is limited to operate longer flight ranges thus the necessity of a large-scale motor and battery is needed to do so. Current aviation technology can be implemented to mobile flying taxies of shorter flight ranges. Not only that there are certain uncertainties like regulatory issues, safety issues, and infrastructural issues structs in the road to electric phase but this can be fueled up by funding.
Hopefully, there will be advanced technologies coming the near future to overcome these difficulties. That will omit the lack of funding to these concepts with the desire of lowering the cost and emission factor.
The lighting up of new electric aircraft OEM players is a better sign of the electric phase in aviation and the approaches signify the thrive for the next “tesla” of electric aviation among them. Eventually, it will reach a zero-carbon emission, cost-effective fully electric powered regional transport era soon on the sky.
NOTE: THE VALUES MENTON IN THIS ARTICLE ARE FROM PREVAILING AVIATION SITES AND FOR GENERAL REFERENCE ONLY. DO NOT USE THE GIVEN VALUES FOR AIRCRAFT OPERATIONAL ANALYSIS. USE ONLY APPROVED VALUES RECOMMENDED BY THE MANUFACTURER OR THE AIRCRAFT REGULATORY AUTHORITY
- https://tec.ieee.org/newsletter/september-2016/hybrid-electric-aircraft-state-of-the-art-and- key-electrical-system-challenges
- https://ec.europa.eu/research-and-innovation/en/horizon-magazine/how-hybrid-electric-and- fuel-aircraft-could-green-air-travel
- https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/27/worlds-largest-all-electric-aircraft-set-for- first-flight
- https://www.nbcnews.com/science/science-news/largest-electric-plane-yet-completed-its-first- flight-it-s-n1221401
- https://www.faa.gov/regulations_policies/policy_guidance/envir_policy/media/Primer_Jan2015 .pdf
- https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-issues-contracts-to-mature-electrified-aircraft- propulsion-technologies