For most of aviation’s history, the concept of an all-electric plane has been considered “future tech” or not scalable. Today, companies magniX and AeroTEC proved skeptics wrong and flew the world’s largest all-electric plane, dubbed the eCaravan, for 30 minutes.
Today’s historic performance is a strong signal that we could soon have a major change in the aviation industry. Airlines have long been a known source of carbon emissions. And while a future where the all-electric plane is ubiquitous still has ways to go, that future is exciting. When that day comes, it will have important implications on both sustainability and aviation.
The companies behind today’s record flight
magniX, a company that manufactures electric motors for electric aircrafts, has been around since 2009 and has released a variety of all-electric engines designed for different aircraft sizes. The eCaravan uses one of its products, the magni500.
The 750-horsepower propulsion system has a greater than 93% efficiency. And it played a pivotal role in the success of the flight.
AeroTEC, on the other hand, is the engineering and design company that provided the testing center for the historic flight. The company also contributed the work of its engineers and flight team to support it.
What would an all-electric plane mean for carbon emissions?
Industry has touted the concept of a large electric plane for decades. And for good reason too. An all-electric plane doesn’t just mean cheaper, more efficient travel — it represents the future of the airline industry.
Aviation is responsible for a whopping 12% of carbon dioxide emissions from all transport sources and 2% of all human-induced carbon emissions. That’s why the eCaravan is such a big deal; the successful flight of the craft is a long-awaited innovation for aviation, which has relied on jet fuel to power airplanes since the airline industry emerged over 100 years ago.
How far are we from making all-electric planes ubiquitous?
All-electric planes still have a ways to go before they become the new normal. And in the next 30 years, the aviation industry will contribute 25% of the world’s carbon budget, according to projections.
Experts say we’re about 20 years away from having commercial aircrafts be all-electric. And the prospects of all-electric planes is a $22 billion market opportunity. As environmental and social pressure for zero-carbon flights continue to mount, we can also expect to see continuing support for the all-electric plane as both a concept and a reality.
Correction May 29, 2020: We incorrectly stated that the eCaravan could hold 9 passengers during the flight and that traditional jet engines are 100% efficient. We have removed both inaccuracies.
Lauren Beauban is an Editorial Fellow at theRising, where she covers sustainability news and influential people in the industry. She is also interested in environmental policy and how it affects people. You can pitch her stories at firstname.lastname@example.org