Why Don’t We Have Electric Planes Yet?

The invention of flight has been one
of the most profound technologies in history. And for the past century it
has functioned pretty much the same way. But that could all change. The advent of lithium ion
batteries and electric propulsion technologies is igniting a
revolution in transportation. Everything from cars to trucks
and buses are going electric. But what about planes? We call this the
third revolution in aviation. The first was the piston engine that
enabled the Wright brothers to fly their first flight. The second was the
jet engine, which only really was applied to larger planes. And we think the third
revolution is electric propulsion. CO2 emissions and the environmental impact
they pose has moved to the forefront of public attention and has been
one of the driving forces in leading electric vehicle adoption. The aviation industry is one of
the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions. And unlike cars, aviation
is often excluded from national climate plans because it
operates across borders. Between flight and commercial, shipping constitutes
about 5 percent of our total CO2 emissions per year. And these are some of
the hardest CO2 to decarbonize. Aircraft emissions are a
real serious problem. It’s projected to be up to 25
percent of the entire global carbon budget to stay below 1.5 degrees C. According to a 2018 report on
CO2 emissions from commercial aviation, there was a 32 percent increase in
emissions over the five years leading up to the study. And with the
FAA estimating the number of airline passengers in the U.S. will surpass one 1.28 billion by 2038, planes will be a
big source of pollution for years to come. Jet fuel is also one of
the biggest operating costs for airlines, and electric motors have fewer parts to
repair and maintain, making them a more economical option as well. When you look at a jet
engine, there’s thousands of moving parts. A turboprop has 7,000
to 10,000 moving parts. And you have to every 3,000 hours
spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and a lot of time to overhaul them. There’s one moving part in an
electric motor in a plane. An electric propulsion system can reduce
cost of ownership or cost of operation dramatically. Orders of magnitude 40, 50, 60, 70%. But not only do you have lower
maintenance costs, but you also have lower costs in terms of actually providing the
energy required to go from one location to another. With so many benefits, why is it we
have yet to see the electric vehicle movement come to aerospace? Some fundamental problem with electric aircraft
has always been that a good lithium ion battery cell has one
fortieth of the energy content of the equivalent weight of jet fuel. And so if you were to take an
existing airplane and you take out all the fuel and you take out the engines
and the fuel systems and replace those with only batteries, then you would
only fly one twentieth as far. While the electrification of aviation has
been slow to start, the technology is starting to
look more feasible. So there’s been a significant enough
revolution and improvement in the performance of batteries, which the
automotive industry is really driving. It is extremely promising that one
of these battery technologies can be scaled up for electric flight. So the real question is, is not
when will we have electric airplanes? It’s when will the time come where
we can have electric airplanes that fly far enough to then start
replacing conventionally fueled air transport? The first area to be serviced
with electric aircraft will be short regional flights. But battery electric
flight is still in early development. Some of the planes that
have flown have been demonstrated. They’re basically all battery. They’re just carrying their pilot. And they actually don’t even have
the weight to carry passengers right now. But the batteries
are going to improve. Pipistrel is one of the few
all electric plane manufacturers actually building and flying today. Because of limited range and capacity,
they’re primarily used as trainer aircraft. Recently, Harbour Air in
Vancouver, Canada, partnered with MagniX to take its fleet
of seaplanes all electric. It just completed its first successful
flight and is beginning the certification and approval process. Israeli startup Eviation Aircraft showed
off its all electric nine-seat aircraft in summer 2019 at
the Paris Air Show. The company claims the plane will be capable
of flying up to 650 miles and that customers have placed
more than 150 orders. The startup hopes to
begin testing in 2020. There’s companies out there, like Bye
Aerospace and Pipistrel, that are doing, I think, amazing things in the
light sport and the trainer aircraft market, where they could go straight
to electric with those vehicles and the cost of ownership and the
operational cost benefits are really, really compelling. Until battery tech improves,
hybrid electric aircraft is what will be utilized for larger
capacity flights going longer distances. A hybrid electric aircraft would be
an aircraft that would leverage an electric motor and electric propulsion in
addition to the traditional fuel sources that we have today. So one can imagine, just like you
would have a hybrid electric car, you could have a
hybrid electric aircraft. So what we’ve done is we’ve
taken a very, very successful Honeywell helicopter engine and we’ve mounted it with
a special gearbox to two of our ultra efficient generators. So in total, this machine generates
400 kilowatts of power, which is enough to power 40 homes at one time. Ampaire is one startup working on
and testing hybrid electric aircraft. The first plane that Ampaire flew is
our electric eel, and that’s a six seat aircraft, the largest hybrid
electric aircraft that’s ever flown. We’re already building our second copy of
that aircraft, and it’s going to be the first ever to fly on
an actual commercial route demoing daily operations in Hawaii. The test flights will begin next
year in partnership with Mokulele Airlines, flying on a route
based out of Maui. This project is a stepping stone
for worldwide adoption of electric aircraft. So we’ve been working in
programs from everywhere like Norway, where Norway is actually aiming to have
all flights under 90 minutes go electric or hybrid electric by 2040. And you’re looking at the U.K., Scotland initiatives going on right now
to have electric and hybrid electric aircraft. Airlines historically have
struggled to make money on shorter regional flights, but hybrid
planes could change that. In a hybrid, we’re reducing fuel
burn by up to 75 percent. That is transformational for
the economics of airlines. There’s this whole segment of the
market, about 40 billion dollars of revenue that has now been eliminated
from airlines’ balance sheets because they just couldn’t fly
those routes profitably. We’re going to enable them
to fly those routes again. Utilizing hybrid engines in regional aircraft
could also make flight more common in daily life. I think everybody knows how expensive
it is to fly regionally. And part of the reason that this is
the case is that small turbine engines are very inefficient. Electricity from renewable sources
can be very cheap. And in parts of the country
it’s ridiculously cheap, like the Pacific Northwest, compared to jet fuel flying
will be will be a bargain. It’s also going to enable is things
like regional commuting that you have these super-commuters in places like Los Angeles
and the Bay Area that are going to be able to do
things like fly daily, air-pooling. So when could we see
larger commercial airliners go electric? It could be some time. I think there’s a lot of years,
if not decades, before hybrid electric and fully electric propulsion is going to
be viable in that space. And it’s unknown when battery technology
will be sufficient for those longer missions. In the take-off, the amount
of power that is required is specifically related to its weight. Even to have a small passenger plane,
maybe three or four people, go for several hundred miles, you need a battery
that is two to three times more powerful than it is today. It’s more likely that these larger
aircraft will convert to hybrid technology until batteries are capable
of supporting longer flights. When you talk to a Boeing or you
talk to an Airbus about a really big airplane, the conversations in the present tend
to be around how do you make the airplane more
electric versus fully electric? And that does take loads off of the
engines and help reduce the fuel burn of those aircraft and make
those aircraft more efficient. Electric technology also opens up a
host of new efficient designs for future aircraft. There’s kind of
a cascade of benefits. You produce less heat, so it’s easier
to cool your system and your cooling drag goes down. You can
design the plane differently. The electric motors are tiny
compared to an engine. You can put them in different places. So it just opens up
an entire new design space. You compare the amount of energy per
weight that you could put in a battery versus amount of energy per weight
that’s in a gallon of gasoline, it’s enormously different. And what that forces you to do
is to design very, very efficient airplanes. These efficiencies in combination
with the advantages of electric propulsion, enable an entirely new
type of flight: air taxis or urban air mobility. Urban air mobility is really
a new mode of transportation. I would actually call it
a new era in aviation. And that revolution is really to
overcome the traffic problem we’re seeing around big cities. Perhaps you’re 30
miles away from your closest airport. So you could potentially get into one
of these urban air mobility vehicles and fly that short distance that might
take you an hour in traffic, but maybe fifteen minutes in one of
these urban air mobility vehicles. This new segment of transportation has
attracted the attention of Uber, which is hoping to bring its experience
as a rideshare company to flight. We know that congestion is getting worse
and there’s limits to what you can do on the ground. Let’s move
transportation out of the 2D grid into the third dimension. Uber is creating the technology that
will help run the logistical operations of such a service and
partnering with manufacturers to provide the aircraft. When you select Uber
Air, we’ll get you a car. You’ll take that to the sky port. We’ll walk you through the seamless,
minimal time transition into the aircraft, which will then take off fly
to the closest remote skyport to your destination, where a car will meet you
just in time for you to get to your final destination. Urban air
mobility could surpass ground-based services in investor
interest and funding. Morgan Stanley estimates the
market could reach $1.5 trillion by 2040. The evolution has been like
nothing I’ve ever seen. I’ve been in aerospace for decades and
there’s been an influx of capital at each end of the value chain,
from the vehicle manufacturers to the technology to the infrastructure
to the regulatory environment. Hundreds of startups have recently entered
the space, all working to develop their own aircraft. Vahana is developing a short range
vertical takeoff and landing vehicle funded by Airbus. Joby Aviation is
backed by JetBlue Airways and Google’s Larry Page is an investor
in two startups as well. Traditionally, only a few hundred
planes are manufactured a year. The advent of urban air mobility could
change that and have a big impact on the automotive industry. The volumes are gonna be
like nothing we’ve ever seen. In a traditional aerospace market, five
hundred airplanes a year, six hundred airplanes a year, those are
a record-setting numbers of airplanes and for urban air mobility, could be
tens of thousands of vehicles per year. And quite frankly, the
traditional aerospace industry isn’t equipped to support those volumes. Anticipating this convergence of aerospace
and automotive led Honeywell to partner with Denso, one of
the world’s largest automotive suppliers. We talk about urban air mobility, not
as a replacement for an airplane, but as a replacement for a car. And so you have a lot of
automotive companies that are very, very interested in participating
in the market. We build millions of
motors and inverters. And when we bring that kind
of technology and manufacturing know-how to our aerospace customers, it’s seen
as really, really monumental because they are used to building
in such low quantities. Air taxis are only just
starting to enter testing. But how soon could we potentially
see them out in the world? We do see some urban
air mobility operations using conventional helicopters today. But when are we
going to actually see these electric vertical take-off and
landing vehicles? My best guess would be as the
technology develops, we’ll be most likely in the 2035, 2030+ timeframe. We’ve said publicly that we think that
2023 is an achievable date for launch of a real commercial service. It’ll be a handful of vehicles
starting out on key routes. It’s going to start at a price
point that’s a little bit more premium. But before air taxis or fully electric
planes can be a reality, batteries still need to improve. If we want a small air taxi to
fly for, say, five hundred miles, that will require a battery that has more than
double the energy density of today’s electric vehicle batteries. Another roadblock is ensuring it will
be safe and reliable under heavy use. There are 200,000 planes taking
off and landing every day. So the reliability of a battery powered
plane has to be very high. As the technology improves, they’ll be
entering an industry built around heavy regulation. Aircraft manufacturing and
systems are required to undergo intense certification to
ensure reliability and safety. This is no longer
dad’s little Cessna 172. This is a vehicle that needs that
reliability and that safety to move people who are expecting that same experience
that they would get in a 737 in a small vehicle. Not to
mention the logistical obstacles of navigating the crowded airspace. As more flight
technologies come to market, there will be more aircraft in
the skies than ever before. Think about hundreds or even thousands
of these vehicles flying around. They have to stay away from all
the other traffic that’s flying in the space. So not only will we have
to ensure safe operations for the passengers on board, but also for
off nominal cases, ensuring the safety of the folks that are on the ground. And with urban air mobility emerging as
a new field in aviation, a whole new set of research questions and
processes need to be developed between the FAA and vehicle partners. To address these challenge, NASA
has created The Grand Challenge. The Grand Challenges is focused on
providing an ecosystem or a proving ground to enable not only NASA,
but also the FAA, vehicle industry partners and airspace industry partners
to come together to really understand the key questions of what will
be required to enable urban air mobility operations. The hope is that together
they can outline safety certifications, regulation and integration into the
national airspace and urban environments. Seeing an electric plane as a
prototype is quite far from a mass produced one. Unless there is a significant policy shift
to put, for example, a cost on carbon emissions, battery based planes will
have to compete also with jet fuel based planes and currently
the economics do not work. As planes progress toward electric technology,
we should expect it to follow a very similar path to what
we saw in the automobile industry. Where you at one point were talking
about small vehicles like a Nissan Leaf, now you’re talking
about electrifying entire buses. And I think in aerospace or in flying
vehicles, we’re going to see sort of a similar evolution. To stay in service for 30 years, the
aircraft that need to be flying 30 years from now need to
be in development today. I think that we will start
seeing regional electric aircraft happen. And I think that will certainly
be in the next 15 years. Every type of transport is going
electric has already gone electric and planes are next. And it’s
not just some far-out future. It’s happening right now.

100 Replies to “Why Don’t We Have Electric Planes Yet?”

  1. Great questions:

    Can a full electric propelller even cross FL15 (15,000ft above sea level,5,000 above breathable air)?
    (Where as modern airliners could cross FL28+)

    How loud are open or closed HIGH RPM propellers
    compared to multiple LOW RPM blades in a turbofan?

  2. What a load of horse manure! Electric planes will NEVER replace hydrocarbon fueled aircraft. Also the planet is not doomed because of jet travel. Seek the truth and question those who ply this theory that the demise of our planet is imminent due to climate change occurring because of human activity. Climate change has always happened on our planet and will continue. There is nothing that humans can do to stop it or change it.

  3. As a pilot, I cannot help but laugh at the idea. Liquid fuels are the only practical method of moving a massive object, carrying hundreds of passengers, reliably, economically, and with great speed. It is directly related to the amount of energy, that produces combustion, resulting in locomotion, from a given source. Battery-driven aircraft will not be practical with the exception of those with low airspeeds and minimal payloads. I can see them in cases of military surveillance where slow moving drones must linger over an area, but otherwise forget it!

  4. About Carlos Ghosn…No one should be surprised that a businessman
    that dyes his hair would jump bail, they just cannot be trusted, after all its
    all about the criminal element of deceit they bathe in.

  5. Right..and the batteries grow on banana plants in Belize, and power to charge those batteries can be generated from liberal excrement.

  6. How about gliders with small electric motor and battery capacity mainly for take off? Only there to get you off the ground? Then enjoy the thermals

  7. Because electric planes just like electric cars will be unreliable only you can't coast a plane to the side of the road

  8. https://www.harbourair.com/harbour-air-and-magnix-announce-successful-flight-of-worlds-first-commercial-electric-airplane/

  9. "Good day passengers, this is your pilot speaking. I'd just like to inform you that Dave overhere forgot to charge the plane to 100% and as a result we'll have to crash land in this crop field right here.

    So… does anyone have a powerbank by any chance?"

  10. The focus shall be on new fuels, batteries is a bad solution. If you look at airliners you do not take more fuel than you need, with a battery you will need to transport the weight of the battery, and airliners like the A320 and B737 these days fly everything from a 30 minute domestic to a 7 hour transatlantic flight. The shorter flights also have quick turn-arounds of 30 minutes, you can’t recharge that fast.

  11. What next, propelling spacecraft with batteries? Hey all you Elon Musk fanbois, how come your messiah is not launching spacecraft with batteries?

  12. 2:10 That's just one order of magnitude…
    Gives a whole new meaning to "GET TO THE CHOPPAAAA!"
    Btw dosn't China own the majority of the world's lithium mines and aren't children working in Chilean lithium mines?

  13. Planes trains and trucks will all be hydrogen , so will cars eventually, think of electric like the Atari, looked great but is no longer around

  14. I see 3 major flaws with electric planes:
    1. The risk of the batteries catching fire.
    2. How do you safe occupants in accidents, when the airframe is under high voltage like we see it on cars.
    3. Winter!

  15. I can hardly wait until the skies over my home are as busy with thousands of noisy electric powered aircraft as the roads are with cars….

  16. These idiots released the video after the first commercial electric flight happened almost a week before.


  17. We are working on solid state batteries the man who brought you lithium. Is one upping this it will take many years..

  18. What people don't realize is that planes are way more efficient than cars and other ground transport systems with the new A350 and 787-10 they burn 50 percent less fuel than the old 757 and 767 which already were way more efficient than cars and other ground transport systems. The main problem now is getting rid of all cars and moving to public transportation systems.

  19. So even with solid state batteries, they would still need 4 times the weight in batteries to perform similarly to a jet fueled aircraft. Perhaps battery-electric isn't the answer here.

  20. Electrically powered landing gear seems like a lot better option! Without having nearly as much weight you could eliminate the highest fuel usage on taxi ways, and the airplane went nearly as much right away or fuel to take off! He would still need a generator on top of it to run air conditioning in the cabin! I have not understood why they don't use tow vehicles to get the airplanes out to the runway, using those huge jet engines pushing against air at low thrust seems to be a very inefficient way to position a plane for takeoff!

  21. You should try diffusers battery. Which means the charging of the fuel cell is directly from air. Like nitrogen charger ions transport etc.

  22. Why not electrifying the marine industry first? slow boats need little energy to drive and battery weight is not an issue at all.

  23. Because jet fuel is 80x more energy dense than lithium, making a battery to power a plane 1000 miles would weight 2000 tons

  24. what is the weight of a full fueled a/c on takeoff vs landing? lighter without the weight of fuel… Now what is the full charged a/c on takeoff vs landing? the same

  25. I don't even need to watch this video to tell you why – energy density. Lithium based battery chemistry's energy density is crap compared to hydrocarbon-based fuels. It's MASSIVELY off. Jet fuel has a 43 MJ/Kg ratio while lithium metal batteries have 1.8. That means we're not even close to battery-powered planes until we get far better battery energy densities.

  26. Air taxi from downtown Manhattan to JFK is the biggest market. Ground taxi is useless 90% of the time. Subway is useless for luggage 100% of the time.

  27. we dont have electric planes yet because engineers are vastly more intelligent than tv reporters.
    thats basically the reason.
    we can just leave it at that, really.

  28. Increasing weight with added batteries increases the lift requirements, thus minimum airspeed, thus wind resistance and fuelburn.
    Hybrid planes doesn't make sense because, unlike with cars, there is a direct connection between weight and fuelburn at cruising speed.

  29. I'll just keep waiting for our buddies across the pond to lobby politicians to legalize lane-splitting in every state so I can ride through your congested roadways and go about my business while you pay $100 for a ride on a glorified drone to your home.

  30. The demands on mineral extraction to supply EV batteries is already struggling, and when electric cars are now just a tiny portion of cars built! People pretend like electric machinery have no environmental impact.

  31. Why are they talking about electric airplanes as being cheaper? Electric cars are not cheaper than conventional gas cars because the batteries are so expensive

  32. Building airplanes like cars, never thought I would say this, but thank god for the FAA. It's probably still decades before an electric plane can fly around carrying a full paper text of the Federal Aviation Regulations.

  33. They talk about weight…however we pay for “overweight” luggage on conventional aircraft…so how is hybrid air going to be feasible?

  34. Limo-left propaganda.A cow burps and farts between 160 to 320 litres of methane per day. That is 18% of total greenhouse gas emissions annually…and they are worried about "5% from airplane exhaust".

  35. самолет это вам не квадрокоптер…. инопланетяне ржут над мировым правительством земли…..

  36. I mean planes have a lot of surface area on top, could be useful looking into making it a solar panel. But like how putting a panel on a car isn't really beneficial cause its so tiny and the battery is so big, I guess scaling that up to planes would be the same lol

  37. They currently lack the range. However the batteries waisted from their useful life would hurt the environment more than the CO2

  38. "Why Don't We Have Electric Planes Yet?"

    Title is wrong. There are electric planes. They are just two seaters

  39. Nothing but a bunch of marketing hype. The battery problem is huge and, notably, understated in this video. Besides, the carbon dioxide Armageddon is coming in 2030 so we'll all be dead well before the early adoption predication, in this fantasy video, of 2035.

  40. "Batteries, small range. Jet fuel, big range."

    – Extra 15 minutes 39 seconds have now been added to your day, enjoy.

  41. Anyone who believes that airlines will pass on the savings of using less fuel to passengers is sadly mistaken! As long as we keep doing things for profit and shareholder value nothing will change.

  42. I would rather have an emergency landing on an electric plane than a plane filled with jet fuel and burn to death.

  43. News flash! December 10, 2019. Vancouver, B.C. Harbour Air announces successful flight of world's first all-electric six-passenger DHC-2 de Havilland Beaver seaplane, signifying the start of the third era in aviation – the electric age. Apparently CNBC doesn't have access to any Canadian news sources nor do any of you other pseudo scientists. LOL

  44. Why not solar powered planes? They are already closer to the sun so it’s like extra powerful.

  45. Uber can't even handle something simple as a taxi service…. But yea let's trust them with an airplane , which pretty much is a missile in the air. Ughh.

  46. You do not need batteries to drive those electric motors. There will be hybrid airplanes with electric motors work similar as train technology.

  47. Why not putting thin solar cells at the top of wings and fuselage. They are flexible enough fit the wings and body. So, they recharge planes as they always fly above the clouds. It's not much but if they outcharge their extra weight during flight it might be considered an option…

  48. Yeah like if the electric energy is the future… Besides the extremelly bad to the environment way of extracting lithium you get most of the energy from bad fuel sources. So this eletric bs makes me sick. I guess torium is really not profitable at all so quite understandable.

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