Electric planes seem to be closer than we think - would you get on an aircraft with an electric propulsion system?

12 June 2022

The last decade has shown phenomenal growth in the sale and acceptance of electric vehicles, largely driven largely by a relative newcomer to the motor industry, Tesla. The self-driving vehicles have promoted a fashionable form of environmentally friendly transportation and are now seen as a necessity rather than merely a luxury car. Naturally, as the world becomes increasingly more advanced, it is inevitable that other forms of transport will follow suit. Since the start of 2016, NASA has been working on creating an electric-powered aircraft – experiment X-57, which is set to have its first test flight next month. With the goal of making aircraft more sustainable and more efficient, scientists at NASA designed the X-57 to be used without aviation gasoline, but with lithium-ion batteries, which are also found in your average laptop.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation states that aviation transportation makes up two per cent of global CO2 emissions, therefore, the potential use of electric aircraft will spark an incredible movement for environmental change. Moreover, for higher levels of efficiency, the X-57 has been built with wings forty-two per cent smaller than the average aircraft size. Additionally, the new electric plane will use twelve smaller rotors to help mitigate the loss in the lift from the small wing, doubling the lift available to the aircraft.

The electric motors are powered by 400-pound lithium-ion packs mounted in the cabin of the aircraft. Providing 23 kilowatts hours of power. NASA spent a lot of time and effort making sure they would not overheat and catch fire. Experts are saying if this test aircraft can fly over the hot California sun, the new form of electric aircraft will become over 40% more efficient than the planes that people have access to today.

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