Did you know that the average Boeing 747 goes through five gallons of gasoline for every mile of a flight? For a ten hour flight, this could mean more than 36,000 gallons of fuel. As we aim to reduce our carbon footprint, one area that certainly could use improvement is the aviation industry. But is there another way to fuel our airplanes that is safe and sustainable?
According to NASA, we may be well on our way to the first electric plane. Although electric cars are becoming more commonplace, the idea of an electric plane has a few obvious issues. First and foremost, there is the issue of safety. If a car runs out of power or there's a mechanical failure related to the power, it's at least on the ground. Obviously, a plane that’s thousands feet off the ground will be a much bigger problem.
Second, the technology isn't available. Battery technology is increasing at an astonishing rate, though, so that is something to consider for commercial aviation down the road. If you want to see what the current technology looks like, check out our selection of high amperage connectors and other electrical components designed for the aviation industry among others.
So the Answer to the Title Question Is Yes…
NASA is building an electric plane. The project is called X-57, and NASA projects that it will take four years for a single plane to be built. Before you book a ticket, the plane will be designed to only have one passenger – the pilot. In addition to that, it will only be able to travel for about an hour or a hundred miles at a time.
The design of the plane will include a very thin wing that will hold fourteen motors to power the propellers. Most of those propellers will be used for takeoff and landing. Once the plane is in the air, it will only require two of the propellers, but the propellers also provide extra life for takeoff and landing, which is needed given how thin the wing will be.
Obviously there is still work that will need to be done here, but it is an exciting start, and NASA officials believe that improved technology in batteries and other aviation components will allow for commercial electric aviation in the not too distant future.