Electric aircraft has been in a stage of developmental work a long time ago. But now an American start-up, the European aerospace giant Airbus and Chinese aviation manufacturer are in the ranks of those who believe that electric models of planes are ready to fly. If they succeed, the aircraft will be much cheaper and more convenient – for training.
“Electric planes will change everything, if it comes to the cost of the flight,” – says George Bay, Colorado entrepreneur, participated in several aviation projects. His new company, Aero Electric Aircraft Corporation, plans to prepare a double Sun Flyer flight tests. Solar panels on the wings provide additional charging, and if you leave the aircraft in the sun for a few days, its battery will be fully charged absolutely free.
Taking into account the cost of maintenance and fuel, Double Sun Flyer will cost just $ 5 per hour, according to Bay, compared with the same Cessna 172 ($ 73 per hour), four-seater, which is often used for training. New Sun Flyer will be priced from 180 000 to 200 000 dollars, which may seem expensive, but the same new 172 costs about 370 thousand dollars.
Bay hopes that he will be the first manufacturer of electric training aircraft in the US market certified FAA by 2017 or earlier. But he is not alone.
In April, Airbus aircraft showed a battery-powered E-Fan 2.0. In July, the company said it plans to become the first in the market of electric aircraft for flight schools and begin deliveries already in 2018.
Two-seater plane, which will be built by the French manufacturer Daher-Socata, can stay aloft for up to two hours. It is not enough for commercial use, but quite decent for training, because the training field of the majority of flights continues for about an hour with no passengers on board. As soon as the plane sits, its battery can be easily replaced by a fresh one and continue flying. By 2019, Airbus also plans to introduce a hybrid version of the four-seater for personal transport. This is the first step of 30-year plan for the development of 90-seat aircraft with electric or hybrid propulsion system, part of an ambitious European program to reduce carbon emissions by 75% by 2050.
Electric aircraft is developing in China too: now there is the plant under construction, which will produce two-seater Rui Xiang RX1E. The aircraft developed by Shenyang Aerospace University, will be able to fly up to 90 minutes on a full charge. Private aviation develops slowly in China, since its development is complicated by government restrictions, but the pressure allows to look for other, more flexible ways.
If the cost of batteries will continue to decline and electric planes will spend more time in the air, the growth of the market of petrol engines will slow down, at any rate it will be so for training purposes, where the flights are short and more than two seats are not needed. In addition to cost reductions, electric flight is softer and quieter and the service in general is not difficult due to the lack of moving parts. If you are planning to learn to pilot a private jet, get ready for an electric one.