Why We Still Don't Have Electric Planes

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Planes have revolutionized the way we travel. We can now get to our destinations with much more ease and convenience than ever before. Sadly, taking trips often is too expensive for us regular folk. There is a solution and that is the idea for the electric plane. 

What is technology?

  • Electric planes have been around for a long time. You may know them as toy planes or drones

  • All that is needed is to use that technology as a model and scale up the operation

  • Electric planes have been created before and have sustained flight. 

  • Ultimately the main reason they are not in the market is because of the lack of battery technology

Limitations Due To The Battery

  • To fly a plane it takes a lot of fuel, about a gallon of fuel a second. A battery will need to produce enough electricity to be able to match that which is produced by fuel. 

  • A battery's ability to hold power is measured in specific energy. Right now even the best batteries only have 250 Wh/kg (watt-hours per kilogram). To start flying we need to be able to have batteries with a specific energy of 800 Wh/kg. Not to mention to match jet fuel’s specific energy we need to have batteries with about 12,000 Wh/kg.   

  • I know this is daunting but it is possible. We used to have computers that were the size of factories but they were way less powerful then they are today. For a fraction of the size, we have way more processing power. I believe the same logic can be applied for the batteries to come. With better batteries comes the opportunity to create electric planes that circle the globe.

  • There's one more thing to consider and that's the weight of the battery in the plane. To produce a battery that is competitive with the fuel it is forced to be both larger and heavier. This can cause balance issues in the plane making it harder to take off and land. Using current technology only short electric flights are possible. This is about 100 miles, about the distance from Seattle to Vancouver. 

Future Insights

  • Currently, companies are working on the balance issues by integrating the battery into the body of the plane allowing for a much larger battery to be spread out evenly through the plane to keep balance.

  • Companies are creating new kinds of planes that are much smaller and can only hold 10 passengers to help maximize distance while being cost-effective and helpful to travelers. The good thing about this is that electric planes can make many trips and still be cheaper than fuel planes to run. 

  • Also, many planes only travel shorter distances, to begin with, but they end up using a type of plane meant to fly longer distances. Electric planes can take over short-distance travel along with being able to drastically increase the number of local flights while keeping the cost down. This would bring a lot more people to regional airports helping them to stimulate the local economy.     

  • Noise on and from planes can be significantly reduced with electric airplanes causing a much smoother experience

In all, the future is bright and even I can benefit from this technology via cheaper flights to school. It's not a matter of if electric planes will future, it's a matter of when. If you are wondering what you can do to help bring this technology to the world? Well, tell your local politicians about this idea and lobby support for both research and development into batteries and electric vehicles. While you're at it make sure to promote electricity via renewable energy because that is just as important. Thanks for reading and have a great day.