First had the propellers. Then the reactors. Now the electric motor is starting to reshape the planes.
The largest aerospace event in the world, the Paris Air Show, took place this week. In figures, the electric planes on display were a show on board. More than 400 fossil fuel-powered aircraft worth $ 15 billion were sold as the airlines sourced to meet the growing demand for air travel around the world.
But it was the order of Cape Air's first commercial electric aircraft that caught the eye. Israeli start-up Eviation Aircraft has recorded a number of "double-digit" orders for a $ 4 million electric plane called Alice. The aircraft can cover 1,046 km (650 mi) at 805 km / h (500 mph) with three electric motors at the tail and one at each wingtip. The prototype features a 900-kWh lithium-ion battery (about nine times larger than Tesla's largest car battery).
Squeezing 9m, the plane only carries nine passengers, but that's fine for Cape Air, a regional airline located in the state of Massachusetts that carries out hundreds of short flights every day. Its 92 aircraft serve approximately half a million passengers a year, making it one of the largest regional airlines in the United States.
The short jumps of Cape Air make it an ideal partner for electric flights. Batteries can not yet store as much energy as liquid fuel, making them unfit for long-haul flights where they add too much weight. But for flights of less than a few hundred kilometers (the distance will increase as the batteries improve), electric propulsion is much cheaper: 10 times cheaper for fuel alone, says the electric motor manufacturer MagniX. With reduced maintenance, shorter turnaround times and more sustainable systems, electric aircraft can save millions of dollars each year for short-haul airlines.
But the major manufacturers of jet aircraft do not wait for the electric revolution. Hybrid technology, in which power assistance operates throughout the flight, will be ready in the next few years. Boeing and JetBlue have invested in Zunum Aero to deploy a hybrid vehicle later this year. United Technologies-Raytheon, which has just merged, is modernizing its regional turboprop hybrid. The entry of Airbus is scheduled for 2022. At the same time, the number of electrical appliances in development continues to grow. Roland Berger expects this number to increase from 170 to 200 by the end of the year.
If the economic situation is not enough, the climate crisis is. The aerospace industry contributes 2-3% of global emissions, and countries can not meet their climate goals without addressing them. Sweden and Norway have announced their intention to make electric all short flights by 2040. Scotland, the Netherlands, California and the UK have all started to put in place incentives. to reduce aviation emissions. Customers outperformed them: the UBS Investment Bank reports that 22% of respondents in the United States and Germany had already reduced their air travel for environmental reasons. For those under 44, it exceeded 50%.