While Electric Automobiles are witnessing an increasing growth with core vendors like Tesla driving the growth and automobile giants like Volkswagen and GM entering the field, electric aviation was something which was held back owing to several reasons. With many major innovations and changes in electric engines, electric aviation is expected to become more relevant, especially for small aeroplanes. Some of the major R&D activities are listed below.
- Airbus, Rolls-Royce, and Siemens have entered into a partnership for developing a hybrid-electric propulsion for commercial aircraft. The joint venture is developing E-Fan X, a British Aerospace 146 airliner with its right inboard turbofan replaced by an electric motor.
- Project Vahana started in 2016 for developing an electric-powered vertical take-off and landing flying prototype and was financed by Airbus.
- City Airbus is another major project under airbus with emphasis on urban air mobility. CityAirbus is a battery-powered and is designed to carry up to four passengers in congested megacities to major destinations like railway station or airport.
- Zunum Aero is a start-up backed by Boeing for developing hybrid electric regional aircraft upto 50 seats
NASA X-57 Maxwell is an experimental aircraft containing electrically driven propellers designed by NASA and built by ESAero
Adoption of electric aviation is triggered by the following advantages of electric motors over fossil fuel powered jet engines
- Initial cost of electric motor is lower than jet fuel engines and electric motor has lesser maintenance compared to jet fuel engines.
- Electric motors are environment-friendly with no emissions and no fuel burning. Emissions from aviation is a serious issue faced by governments across the world. For instance, emissions from aviation accounted for about 3% of total EU greenhouse gas emissions according to the European Union.
- Electric aviation could be highly beneficial for passengers since it would make ticket cost cheaper and make the flight journey noiseless.
The slow adoption for electric aviation is due to the disadvantages of using it, some of them given below.
- Electric batteries produce lesser energy per unit of weight compared to jet fuel even though electric motors are more efficient in converting energy into power
With the current pace of development, it would still require more than 10 years for electric aviation in larger commercial flights.
– Arjun Das,
Senior Research Analyst,