Jim Young

EasyJet Going Electric?

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Fortunately, not in my lifetime - https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/sep/27/easyjet-electric-planes-wright-electric-flights

Wonder what air-to-air refueling will be like then?  A huge plug coming out of an electric tanker?  Then, what about the roar of the engines.  Will passengers wonder if they are actually working as they descend to the runway?  Man wants to know.

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There was a long interview with someone from EasyJet on the BBC News Channel earlier on. Sounded really interesting - and that it might take quite a rethink as to the design of the planes themselves. He envisaged the electric bit as either only kicking in when the plane had reached the cruising altitude (needing jets for take-off) or using the props/jets/turbines/whatevertheywillbes to recharge the batteries during the descent. In other words it would be more of a glider on the last part of the journey.

On the other hand Easy also had the hydrogen powered planes in their sights back in '16 (but there only for taxiing whilst on the ground) of which one has not heard much since then - and the idea of hydrogen fuel cell powered electric airliners has been aired on several occasions in the past by anything from more, shall I say, enthusiastic visionaries, all the way to the big airplane builders themselves.

I does sound interesting, however. And for short-haul flight definitely like a good idea...

 

Cheers

 

Mallard

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It's a bit of a stretch for EasyJet to say they'll be flying the things within a decade; any new aircraft, even a basic one, takes a number of years to go through testing and certification, and there isn't even anything on the drawing boards yet, let alone at a point where it could begin testing and certification. Even the NASA contest for a green aeroplane last year specified to entrants their designs had to be capable of being built within five years, and that was just for one-off competition prototypes which could be flown under an experimental classification.

Yes the winning aeroplane for NASA's green flight challenge contest - the Pipistrel Taurus G4 - did manage to fly the required 200 miles in two hours and not use much energy, but it was hardly a 200-seater airliner capable of ferrying people from London to Paris in about an hour or so, which is the kind of business Easyjet are in. The Taurus G4 was really nothing more than an enlarged twin boom version of the Taurus Electro G2 motor glider, which itself has a powered endurance of less than 20 minutes, some airliners need the power on for longer than that before they even leave the stand, let alone take off and fly to another city hundreds of miles away.

I don't wish to dampen the enthusiasm for future innovation, but we're a long way further than a decade from some electric airliner going into service. Seems a bit more like a reason to get a news mention than any genuine belief they'll be flying something like that by the mid 2030s.

Just look at the reality of batteries on aeroplanes and the problems Boeing had with them on their 787 with several fires occurring on board the thing and being unable to be safely contained, and that battery certainly wasn't one for powering its thrust either. Or the ruling which prevented you even boarding an aeroplane with some types of Samsung mobile devices because their batteries were prone to bursting into flames.

It is true that battery powered cars are getting more and more sophisticated and powerful, and I have to say I'm amazed with the battery life on my iPad which has a really impressive battery, but I'm pretty sure there aren't many places to plug a charger in for your aeroplane halfway across the English Channel whilst at 34,000 feet, and there's certainly nowhere to pull over quickly if there's a fire when you are up there. So it's one thing to be doing test flights in a motorised glider whilst you are wearing a parachute should those batteries decide to go up in flames, but quite another to be expecting 200 people on board an airliner to be bailing out of the thing through four emergency exits whilst it is turning into a roman candle with wings. Most people can't even be relied upon to not inflate their lifejacket until they are outside the aeroplane, if they even bothered to observe the safety briefing in the first place.

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It will take a real battery break-thru before electric aircraft become mainstream.  Most tested today run out of juice after about an hour, not enough to be marketable, not to mention their cost being the bleeding edge of technology.  I do think battery breakthrus will come sooner rather than later, I've seen some research videos that are quite good once the experimenters can scale up their processes to market.  The catch is to make sure that the Lithium-Ion makers don't try to suppress new technology, which often happens in big business.  Professor Sadoway at MIT has been working on a new type of battery storage solution using more common elements, although it isn't for moving vehicles, it shows what science has done since the turn of the century.

John 

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Not gonna happen in 10 or even 20 years. The current energy density of rechargeable batteries is approximately 1/100 of jet fuel. Add to that the limited number of charging cycles, the long recharging times, the possible safety issues in a safety-regulated environment like civil aviation. So multiple technological revolutions will be necessary before we'll see electric airliners. Civil and military aviation will most certainly be the last mode of transportation to introduce electric powerplants. Maybe GA aviation could (still further out than 10 years from now) introduce electric aircrafts, should the batteries become one order of magnitude better than today in every aspect (weight, cost, longevity), and should anti-pollution laws for GA become more severe.

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1 minute ago, Murmur said:

Not gonna happen in 10 or even 20 years. The current energy density of rechargeable batteries is approximately 1/100 of jet fuel. Add to that the limited number of charging cycles, the long recharging times, the possible safety issues in a safety-regulated environment like civil aviation. So multiple technological revolutions will be necessary before we'll see electric airliners. Civil and military aviation will most certainly be the last mode of transportation to introduce electric powerplants. Maybe GA aviation could (still further out than 10 years from now) introduce electric aircrafts, should the batteries become one order of magnitude better than today in every aspect (weight, cost, longevity), and should anti-pollution laws for GA become more severe.

I still think it may come sooner than we expect.  While we go on with our lives, PHD's and grad students are experimenting with new technologies all the time.  When I was born and growing up in the early 60's, we imagined a future with video phones, and wrist phones.  Seemed like science fiction, yet they are here today.  It's like the Jetson's coming to reality, and there are a couple of companies preparing to use drone taxis in Dubai.

Once we do that, cities will go more vertical and we will be able to accommodate our higher population.  The future is here and spinning very quickly into our lives.  We just have to remain human in the midst of all this technology.  My parents saw great changes in technology in their lives, and I have seen these great changes in my life. I am not smart enough to know how it is all put together, but it is out there.

John

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I am skeptical of this. How long do you think it will take just to develop this technology for an aircraft on average to be the size of theirs? More than a decade. We won't even have the new Boeing MOM aircraft in that time frame so honestly they are claiming they will do something that the industry never adapts that quickly to. 

Then we look at the question of the aircrafts weight which impacts the range of that aircraft. Today in example, you can fly an aircraft and you know the aircraft will get more fuel efficient as it burns the fuel. On a electrical aircraft however you always have to carry those big lithium batteries to store the energy. 

Bottom line is that the aircraft would never get more efficient as it flies because the weight never changes. That means slower, lower cruise, shorter hauls, faster take off rolls and landing speeds meaning more power. 

I am am a business man my self. I am in charge of over 50 retail locations in the U.S. One thing that I always say is that you have to know what your job is and what your mission is.  

My job is not to design the product I sell, or figure out what to sell next. My job is to figure out a way to sell it and to make money at a higher profit for my company , employees and the design team and inventors. 

Easyjet IMO is trying to design an aircraft that has no horizon as to when it will appear in the drawing board . They have a tendency to do that as I remember they did something similar a few years ago, sending a letter to flightglobal to publish. In this letter they basically were demanding that the manufacturers design an aircraft based on what they thought the best new airplane would be. 

So I say this, Easyjet is in the business of filling as much people as they can into a plane with out any pampering as its s budge airline.. they are really good at making this happen, so they should continue to do that and stop making claims that all it does is gain them advertising.  

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All-electric has a ways to go but hybrid aircraft will be here sooner.  Boeing (along with JetBlue) and Airbus are among those making investments.  

Battery technology is evolving rapidly.  In the automotive space, it's generally acknowledged by mainstream trade press that the internal combustion engine is in its last decade. Regulatory requirements and state initiatives (like China's) will be enough to shift the economics - demand from China alone will be enough to scale battery production to the point where electric will soon be cost-equivalent to fossil fuel for automotive applications.

The EasyJet initiative is probably more promotional than anything else.  But change is coming.

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