Electric commercial flights were once seen as an invention of pure fantasy. Things have changed since then. Electric commercial flights are now a firm part of the future of commercial flight. The research has been pioneered by Airbus, which has produced the E-Fan and has managed to make it fly for one hour using lithium-ion battery packs.
This electric two-seater aircraft is designed to test the viability of an electric plane. In addition, the results have been encouraging. It gives the industry hope that this could represent the future of air travel.
So why should electric flights get people excited?
A Cleaner Aircraft
Global warming and climate change are causing a great many negative effects to the planet. These are set to become more profound as the situation becomes direr. The airline industry is among the biggest offenders when it comes to polluting the atmosphere.
There's little they can do about this because aircraft produces so much carbon dioxide. Electric aircraft would change this because they don't produce the same toxic mix of chemicals. Therefore, that would alter the world for the better.
Another benefit of electric is the batteries are entirely rechargeable. Fuel is burned and broken down into toxic components. These are released into the air, where they go on to pollute the environment. The latest batteries produce only hydrogen, which is naturally produced by the atmosphere anyway and is of no harm.
The way this works is the battery performs a chemical reaction in order to produce energy. When charged, the battery reverses this reaction in order to allow the battery to perform again. Only after multiple uses do they need to be replaced.
Long Haul Aircraft
There's only so much fuel an aircraft can hold. The only option is to increase the size of the aircraft. While airlines have done this, particular with Boeing and their enormous airbus, this can only go on for so long before a limit is reached.
To continue to innovate and to send aircraft across longer distances, airlines are going to have to think of something different. And this is where electric aircraft come in. Batteries are much lighter and more can be packed into a smaller space.
This would reduce the amount of weight on the aircraft and allow it to fly longer distances. It flies in the face of one of the biggest criticisms of electric-powered aircraft. Statistics from Nicholas Air, many private planes are now able to travel over 5,000 miles at a constant 500 miles per hour, while being powered entirely by electricity.
Electric aircraft could well overcome the problems associated with airlines being forced to land their planes and refuel, thus making the experience better for passengers.
No Compromise on Quality
Elon Musk has demonstrated an important point about electric power through the Tesla motor company. The fleet of cars on offer is powered by electricity. However, one crucial point to make is that these cars look exactly the same as their diesel-powered counterparts.
Musk has made a range of luxury cars that are simply powered by something else. The usual standard of luxury is there. The driving experience hasn't changed.
It shows that there's absolutely no reason why the same principle can't be applied to an electric airline. The planes can be entirely the same, except they are powered by a cleaner and kinder energy.
What About Price?
Unfortunately, electric aircraft comes at a price. Like the trend with electric cars, the introduction of electric aircraft will see them reserved primarily for the wealthy. Diesel will always be cheaper until electric technology advances to such a point that aircraft can be made and operated cheaply using electric power.
But don't expect this to last for years, as it was in the case with cars. Much of the same technology used in vehicles on the roads will be seen in aircraft. This time, the technology is already there. It just needs an extra push to properly implement it.
How Long Will It Take for Electric Flights to Become a Reality?
Electric flights are already a reality. They have come so far that they have already reached the testing stage. The issue facing proponents of electric flight is scalability. So far tests have dealt mainly with aircraft that are either unmanned or manned by only a handful of people.
Nobody has yet tested electric power with a full-size aircraft. As environmental concerns continue to grow, there's no doubt that a company will decide to conduct tests. It's only a matter of time before electric flights become a reality.
However, how long that will take is currently unknown.