EV Tuesday: Picking the High-Hanging Fruit – Electric Aircraft are Landing Soon
We’ve all seen this annoying line of argument from people opposed to us cleaning up our act with respect to the environment:
Oh, you FLEW over here, now didn’t you? You’re such a hypocrite – that airplane emits tons of CO2. But you did it because there’s NO OTHER REASONABLE OPTION, right? Batteries aren’t even close to the energy density of fuel needed for air travel! That’s the problem with you people, you want us to do things that are TOTALLY IMPRACTICAL, and don’t even live up to your own rhetoric!
While every part of the above will be addressed, the primary response to this can be encapsulated in this graph:
While I would disagree about a number of the things they list as “difficult to eliminate” — long-distance EV road transport can be handled by things like the Tesla Semi, pozzolanic concrete mixes and FRP rebar can significantly lower CO2 footprints while increasing longevity, there’s many “green steel” projects in the works, etc — there’s no question that shipping and in particular aviation are in the “difficult” category. But difficult does not mean impossible. So rather than just throwing up our hands, we need to pick the easy, low-hanging fruit while focusing on building a ladder to the high-hanging fruit.
And that means electric airplanes.
You may or may not have seen in the news recently that NASA has reached a critical milestone with its X-57 electric test aircraft programme, thanks to the arrival of its fuselage for wing-integration:
This is, however, neither the beginning nor the end of the story. We’ll come back to it in a bit, but first let’s back up to the fact that… electric airplanes that you can buy already exist today.
Meet, for example, the Pipistrel Alpha Electro:
A 2-seat light trainer made by Pipistrel (a Slovenian aircraft manufacturer), it’s designed for flight schools, where its low fueling cost, minimal maintenance, short takeoff distance, and high reliability make it ideal for the role (the company claims that it can cut the cost of pilot training by up to 70%). The aircraft offers one hour of flight time (plus a 30-minute reserve), and — in true electric fashion — can regenerate up to 13% of its energy on descent / landing.
To see it in action, watch EV enthusiast Bjørn Nyland taking a ride in one: