Battery Powered Jetliners – Charge it!
We have all seen the movies known as science fiction films, where the characters in the movie are “driving” around in a car that magically flies through the air. These futuristic vehicles do not seem to ever need to pay a visit to the gas station. They are just flying around making a humming sound, suggesting to the viewer that they are not powered by internal combustion engines. Therefore, we naturally assume that they must be electrically powered.
Electric powered vehicles are not a new concept. People have been talking about it since at least the late 1950’s, and airships of the 19th century used electric motors! Science related magazine published an article about a concept, every now and then. At times they made it sound like it was imminent. However, most of the time it was an article that came from a writer’s imagination, paired with fancy looking artists impressions.
Now more than ever, battery-powered aircraft is looking more and more like reality. In fact, there are already a number of manufacturers who have examples flying around. These include small start-ups as well as large, established manufacturers. The biggest problem with the proof-of-concept vehicles is, no surprises here, the power source. Those who are experimenting with electric aircraft are trying to figure out a way to make an economical and practical source of electricity. Ideally, you need a battery capable of 41 megajoules of power. The best ones today can barely crack 1 megajoule.
As far as battery powered jetliners are concerned there are four major players working on it and they are Airbus, Boeing, Wright electric as well as European low-cost airline Easyjet. Predictably, the area in which most of the research is concentrated on is developing a battery that can do the job. Because most of the other aspects have been figured out. These include making a light airframe using carbon fiber and electrical motors capable of producing the necessary power.