The Challenges of Developing Commercial Electric Planes

Turbine und Flugzeug


Electric cars are becoming more commonplace every day. As more consumers become open to the idea of driving an electric car and the battery technology improves to comparable performance levels and mileage of gas-powered automobiles, you can expect more electric cars to make it to market. When it comes to aviation, though, we are still a long way off.


Now this is not to say that the industry hasn't tried to develop electric planes. We wrote in the past about how NASA was designing an electric plane that would be single passenger and capable of being flown for just about an hour. However, the development of the X-57, which is what the project is currently called, does not mean that we are necessarily on the way to commercial development anytime soon like we are with cars.


The Los Angeles Time recently outlined many of the challenges that aviation designers would face when trying to develop an electric motor that would be available for commercial aircraft. It noted that current systems suck air through the front of the engine where it is then squeezed by a compressor. The fuel is sprayed in and lit, which creates burning gases and forward thrust. This forward thrust enables airplanes to go faster and longer.


With electric planes, there is no forward thrust, so the airplane would be much slower. In the design of an electric plane, batteries would power the motor and spin the propeller. While the design might be much simpler, the amount of batteries needed to power an airplane a long distance at a comparable speed is simply too much. According to current estimates, the battery pack needed to compare to the equivalent energy of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner is 4.5 million pounds. Obviously, this is way too much when you consider that the jet fuel capacity of a current Boeing 787 Dreamliner is 223,000 pounds.


In addition to that, battery technology for aviation is more limited than in other forms of transportation like cars. There have been several adverse incidents, which may have triggered some hesitance as well. Experts believe that a hybrid system might be the best option for the near future, but many also believe that we have only scratched the surface when it comes to the technology, and there are many different paths we could eventually go.


As with automobiles, there are many challenges that will need to be addressed, but the future is exciting. At Rebling Plastics, we see new and exciting advances in battery technology every day for various applications – from power connectors for commercial use to military battery terminals. Visit our website today to check out our latest battery components.

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