Are electric aircraft the future?
In the past two months there has been an incredible amount of publicity surrounding electric powered aircraft, as within this time, three different planes have undertaken successful cross-border flights. This has fired the debate as to whether electric aircraft are the future of aviation, or just a hopeless cause.
These three flights indicate that there is great potential for electric powered aircraft, as the planes have not only survived the trip, but have done so without any special support and have had energy to spare at the end of their journeys. It is evidentially feasible to use electric aircraft for flights of up to three hours, over distances of a few hundred miles, and altitudes over 10,000 feet.
At present, the energy density of electric powered aircraft is considerably lower than what can be achieved using ordinary gasoline. As such, electric planes are vastly dwarfed by modern day fuelled aircraft in terms of their speed, capacity, power and versatility
There would also need to be significant improvements in regards to the durability of the aircraft. Currently, electric powered planes are capable of carrying just a small amount of weight, and can only fly in good weather conditions. The latter is especially difficult when the aircraft needs to travel across oceans, with no opportunity to turn back or land.
However, these aircraft would significantly reduce the carbon emissions that the aviation industry creates. As it stands, aircraft are responsible for 2% of the world’s carbon emissions, but with an increasing number of flights year on year, and airline fleets constantly growing, this figure is only expected to rise.
Some are claiming that this is the beginning of a new era in aviation and that combustion engines will be a thing of the past within a few decades. They believe that these recent flights by electric aircraft are proof that it is a viable means of travel and that with further research and advancements, every airline will soon have electric powered aircraft in their fleets.