Are Electric Planes Possible?

Updated: Apr 11, 2019

Scientists have conducted a series of experiments for fuel efficiency in the Aerospace Industry. However, one component of sustainability has disrupted the Aviation sector, and that was the idea of integrating electricity as a source of energy for commercial airlines. Many research programs were conducted to explore the viability of electricity with respect to the airline industry. The emergence of electric cars spurred acclamations all around the world, moreover, this alerted the Aviation sector to consider switching between renewable and non-renewable sources of energy.

Electric Cars are now feasible | Credits -

The significant breakthroughs of the Aviation industry have been quite promising for travelers around the globe, however, there has been some drastic effects - closely linked to the environmental problems of today. Carbon emissions have tripled since the 20th century, due to the growing demands of flight travel. This has led to a rise in climate change and global warming. Planes tend to emit a ton of carbon as it flies through the skies. Furthermore, jet-fuel is extremely expensive when compared to electricity. Hence, many environmental organizations have come forward to propose sustainable sources of energy, in hopes of reducing the rate at which Air pollution occurs. They also estimate a decrease in financial costs.

Electric planes have been once thought impractical, however recent studies did show that such technologies could be used as an alternative source of energy. Corporations like NASA, Zunum, and EasyJet have been working towards the goal of creating Electric planes.

The real question: Is it possible to construct a functional Aircraft that runs on Electricity?

Many aerospace engineers have been skeptical about using electricity to power planes in flight. Nevertheless, numerous scientists agree that such an option would be viable in some ways. Scientists tried to articulate different mediums, through which they could provide electricity. One proposal suggested that batteries could be installed into the Aircraft compartments. The batteries would supply electricity for the flight journey. However, certain restrictions applied to it with regards to flight time wherein batteries couldn’t store electricity for longer periods of time hence it had to be recharged at regular intervals.

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Scientists came up with another plan of designing electric motors while creating the Aircraft. This concept fuses autonomous operation and electric propulsion. Unlike internal combustion engines, they don’t need air to produce power, so they can maintain their full power even at high altitudes, where the air is thin. Instead of having internal combustion engines, with their drag-inducing requirements for cooling air, combustion air intake, fuel lines, and provision for exhaust gases, these motors can be mounted in airframes in different ways. Such planes don’t emit much of greenhouse gases. They are also soundproof, wherein they don’t produce much noise due to the silent electric propulsors. Fine thrust control, better aerodynamics and greater feasibility for such planes. This comes in contrast to the Aircrafts of our time.

However, there could be some limits to such electric carriers. One of them is the speed at which Flight travels. Furthermore, electric motors can increase the mass and weight of the plane, hence this would affect the flight altitude. A considerable amount of research and funds are required to redesign the Aircraft, to meet the requirements of flight safety. Indeed, such planes could revolutionize the Aviation Industry as a whole, nonetheless one must think about the implications of such alternatives. Is it safe and sustainable?

Limitless options are being reviewed as various alternatives emerge. The future of Aviation holds great promises for innovative projects like the Electric Planes.

Written by: Johan Jeson

Johan Jeson is volunteering for Voyager Space Outreach to write Blog Posts on Space/STEM oriented topics.

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