Why Don’t We Have Electric Planes Yet?


The invention of flight has been one
of the most profound technologies in history. And for the past century it
has functioned pretty much the same way. But that could all change. The advent of lithium ion
batteries and electric propulsion technologies is igniting a
revolution in transportation. Everything from cars to trucks
and buses are going electric. But what about planes? We call this the
third revolution in aviation. The first was the piston engine that
enabled the Wright brothers to fly their first flight. The second was the
jet engine, which only really was applied to larger planes. And we think the third
revolution is electric propulsion. CO2 emissions and the environmental impact
they pose has moved to the forefront of public attention and has been
one of the driving forces in leading electric vehicle adoption. The aviation industry is one of
the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions. And unlike cars, aviation
is often excluded from national climate plans because it
operates across borders. Between flight and commercial, shipping constitutes
about 5 percent of our total CO2 emissions per year. And these are some of
the hardest CO2 to decarbonize. Aircraft emissions are a
real serious problem. It’s projected to be up to 25
percent of the entire global carbon budget to stay below 1.5 degrees C. According to a 2018 report on
CO2 emissions from commercial aviation, there was a 32 percent increase in
emissions over the five years leading up to the study. And with the
FAA estimating the number of airline passengers in the U.S. will surpass one 1.28 billion by 2038, planes will be a
big source of pollution for years to come. Jet fuel is also one of
the biggest operating costs for airlines, and electric motors have fewer parts to
repair and maintain, making them a more economical option as well. When you look at a jet
engine, there’s thousands of moving parts. A turboprop has 7,000
to 10,000 moving parts. And you have to every 3,000 hours
spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and a lot of time to overhaul them. There’s one moving part in an
electric motor in a plane. An electric propulsion system can reduce
cost of ownership or cost of operation dramatically. Orders of magnitude 40, 50, 60, 70%. But not only do you have lower
maintenance costs, but you also have lower costs in terms of actually providing the
energy required to go from one location to another. With so many benefits, why is it we
have yet to see the electric vehicle movement come to aerospace? Some fundamental problem with electric aircraft
has always been that a good lithium ion battery cell has one
fortieth of the energy content of the equivalent weight of jet fuel. And so if you were to take an
existing airplane and you take out all the fuel and you take out the engines
and the fuel systems and replace those with only batteries, then you would
only fly one twentieth as far. While the electrification of aviation has
been slow to start, the technology is starting to
look more feasible. So there’s been a significant enough
revolution and improvement in the performance of batteries, which the
automotive industry is really driving. It is extremely promising that one
of these battery technologies can be scaled up for electric flight. So the real question is, is not
when will we have electric airplanes? It’s when will the time come where
we can have electric airplanes that fly far enough to then start
replacing conventionally fueled air transport? The first area to be serviced
with electric aircraft will be short regional flights. But battery electric
flight is still in early development. Some of the planes that
have flown have been demonstrated. They’re basically all battery. They’re just carrying their pilot. And they actually don’t even have
the weight to carry passengers right now. But the batteries
are going to improve. Pipistrel is one of the few
all electric plane manufacturers actually building and flying today. Because of limited range and capacity,
they’re primarily used as trainer aircraft. Recently, Harbour Air in
Vancouver, Canada, partnered with MagniX to take its fleet
of seaplanes all electric. It just completed its first successful
flight and is beginning the certification and approval process. Israeli startup Eviation Aircraft showed
off its all electric nine-seat aircraft in summer 2019 at
the Paris Air Show. The company claims the plane will be capable
of flying up to 650 miles and that customers have placed
more than 150 orders. The startup hopes to
begin testing in 2020. There’s companies out there, like Bye
Aerospace and Pipistrel, that are doing, I think, amazing things in the
light sport and the trainer aircraft market, where they could go straight
to electric with those vehicles and the cost of ownership and the
operational cost benefits are really, really compelling. Until battery tech improves,
hybrid electric aircraft is what will be utilized for larger
capacity flights going longer distances. A hybrid electric aircraft would be
an aircraft that would leverage an electric motor and electric propulsion in
addition to the traditional fuel sources that we have today. So one can imagine, just like you
would have a hybrid electric car, you could have a
hybrid electric aircraft. So what we’ve done is we’ve
taken a very, very successful Honeywell helicopter engine and we’ve mounted it with
a special gearbox to two of our ultra efficient generators. So in total, this machine generates
400 kilowatts of power, which is enough to power 40 homes at one time. Ampaire is one startup working on
and testing hybrid electric aircraft. The first plane that Ampaire flew is
our electric eel, and that’s a six seat aircraft, the largest hybrid
electric aircraft that’s ever flown. We’re already building our second copy of
that aircraft, and it’s going to be the first ever to fly on
an actual commercial route demoing daily operations in Hawaii. The test flights will begin next
year in partnership with Mokulele Airlines, flying on a route
based out of Maui. This project is a stepping stone
for worldwide adoption of electric aircraft. So we’ve been working in
programs from everywhere like Norway, where Norway is actually aiming to have
all flights under 90 minutes go electric or hybrid electric by 2040. And you’re looking at the U.K., Scotland initiatives going on right now
to have electric and hybrid electric aircraft. Airlines historically have
struggled to make money on shorter regional flights, but hybrid
planes could change that. In a hybrid, we’re reducing fuel
burn by up to 75 percent. That is transformational for
the economics of airlines. There’s this whole segment of the
market, about 40 billion dollars of revenue that has now been eliminated
from airlines’ balance sheets because they just couldn’t fly
those routes profitably. We’re going to enable them
to fly those routes again. Utilizing hybrid engines in regional aircraft
could also make flight more common in daily life. I think everybody knows how expensive
it is to fly regionally. And part of the reason that this is
the case is that small turbine engines are very inefficient. Electricity from renewable sources
can be very cheap. And in parts of the country
it’s ridiculously cheap, like the Pacific Northwest, compared to jet fuel flying
will be will be a bargain. It’s also going to enable is things
like regional commuting that you have these super-commuters in places like Los Angeles
and the Bay Area that are going to be able to do
things like fly daily, air-pooling. So when could we see
larger commercial airliners go electric? It could be some time. I think there’s a lot of years,
if not decades, before hybrid electric and fully electric propulsion is going to
be viable in that space. And it’s unknown when battery technology
will be sufficient for those longer missions. In the take-off, the amount
of power that is required is specifically related to its weight. Even to have a small passenger plane,
maybe three or four people, go for several hundred miles, you need a battery
that is two to three times more powerful than it is today. It’s more likely that these larger
aircraft will convert to hybrid technology until batteries are capable
of supporting longer flights. When you talk to a Boeing or you
talk to an Airbus about a really big airplane, the conversations in the present tend
to be around how do you make the airplane more
electric versus fully electric? And that does take loads off of the
engines and help reduce the fuel burn of those aircraft and make
those aircraft more efficient. Electric technology also opens up a
host of new efficient designs for future aircraft. There’s kind of
a cascade of benefits. You produce less heat, so it’s easier
to cool your system and your cooling drag goes down. You can
design the plane differently. The electric motors are tiny
compared to an engine. You can put them in different places. So it just opens up
an entire new design space. You compare the amount of energy per
weight that you could put in a battery versus amount of energy per weight
that’s in a gallon of gasoline, it’s enormously different. And what that forces you to do
is to design very, very efficient airplanes. These efficiencies in combination
with the advantages of electric propulsion, enable an entirely new
type of flight: air taxis or urban air mobility. Urban air mobility is really
a new mode of transportation. I would actually call it
a new era in aviation. And that revolution is really to
overcome the traffic problem we’re seeing around big cities. Perhaps you’re 30
miles away from your closest airport. So you could potentially get into one
of these urban air mobility vehicles and fly that short distance that might
take you an hour in traffic, but maybe fifteen minutes in one of
these urban air mobility vehicles. This new segment of transportation has
attracted the attention of Uber, which is hoping to bring its experience
as a rideshare company to flight. We know that congestion is getting worse
and there’s limits to what you can do on the ground. Let’s move
transportation out of the 2D grid into the third dimension. Uber is creating the technology that
will help run the logistical operations of such a service and
partnering with manufacturers to provide the aircraft. When you select Uber
Air, we’ll get you a car. You’ll take that to the sky port. We’ll walk you through the seamless,
minimal time transition into the aircraft, which will then take off fly
to the closest remote skyport to your destination, where a car will meet you
just in time for you to get to your final destination. Urban air
mobility could surpass ground-based services in investor
interest and funding. Morgan Stanley estimates the
market could reach $1.5 trillion by 2040. The evolution has been like
nothing I’ve ever seen. I’ve been in aerospace for decades and
there’s been an influx of capital at each end of the value chain,
from the vehicle manufacturers to the technology to the infrastructure
to the regulatory environment. Hundreds of startups have recently entered
the space, all working to develop their own aircraft. Vahana is developing a short range
vertical takeoff and landing vehicle funded by Airbus. Joby Aviation is
backed by JetBlue Airways and Google’s Larry Page is an investor
in two startups as well. Traditionally, only a few hundred
planes are manufactured a year. The advent of urban air mobility could
change that and have a big impact on the automotive industry. The volumes are gonna be
like nothing we’ve ever seen. In a traditional aerospace market, five
hundred airplanes a year, six hundred airplanes a year, those are
a record-setting numbers of airplanes and for urban air mobility, could be
tens of thousands of vehicles per year. And quite frankly, the
traditional aerospace industry isn’t equipped to support those volumes. Anticipating this convergence of aerospace
and automotive led Honeywell to partner with Denso, one of
the world’s largest automotive suppliers. We talk about urban air mobility, not
as a replacement for an airplane, but as a replacement for a car. And so you have a lot of
automotive companies that are very, very interested in participating
in the market. We build millions of
motors and inverters. And when we bring that kind
of technology and manufacturing know-how to our aerospace customers, it’s seen
as really, really monumental because they are used to building
in such low quantities. Air taxis are only just
starting to enter testing. But how soon could we potentially
see them out in the world? We do see some urban
air mobility operations using conventional helicopters today. But when are we
going to actually see these electric vertical take-off and
landing vehicles? My best guess would be as the
technology develops, we’ll be most likely in the 2035, 2030+ timeframe. We’ve said publicly that we think that
2023 is an achievable date for launch of a real commercial service. It’ll be a handful of vehicles
starting out on key routes. It’s going to start at a price
point that’s a little bit more premium. But before air taxis or fully electric
planes can be a reality, batteries still need to improve. If we want a small air taxi to
fly for, say, five hundred miles, that will require a battery that has more than
double the energy density of today’s electric vehicle batteries. Another roadblock is ensuring it will
be safe and reliable under heavy use. There are 200,000 planes taking
off and landing every day. So the reliability of a battery powered
plane has to be very high. As the technology improves, they’ll be
entering an industry built around heavy regulation. Aircraft manufacturing and
systems are required to undergo intense certification to
ensure reliability and safety. This is no longer
dad’s little Cessna 172. This is a vehicle that needs that
reliability and that safety to move people who are expecting that same experience
that they would get in a 737 in a small vehicle. Not to
mention the logistical obstacles of navigating the crowded airspace. As more flight
technologies come to market, there will be more aircraft in
the skies than ever before. Think about hundreds or even thousands
of these vehicles flying around. They have to stay away from all
the other traffic that’s flying in the space. So not only will we have
to ensure safe operations for the passengers on board, but also for
off nominal cases, ensuring the safety of the folks that are on the ground. And with urban air mobility emerging as
a new field in aviation, a whole new set of research questions and
processes need to be developed between the FAA and vehicle partners. To address these challenge, NASA
has created The Grand Challenge. The Grand Challenges is focused on
providing an ecosystem or a proving ground to enable not only NASA,
but also the FAA, vehicle industry partners and airspace industry partners
to come together to really understand the key questions of what will
be required to enable urban air mobility operations. The hope is that together
they can outline safety certifications, regulation and integration into the
national airspace and urban environments. Seeing an electric plane as a
prototype is quite far from a mass produced one. Unless there is a significant policy shift
to put, for example, a cost on carbon emissions, battery based planes will
have to compete also with jet fuel based planes and currently
the economics do not work. As planes progress toward electric technology,
we should expect it to follow a very similar path to what
we saw in the automobile industry. Where you at one point were talking
about small vehicles like a Nissan Leaf, now you’re talking
about electrifying entire buses. And I think in aerospace or in flying
vehicles, we’re going to see sort of a similar evolution. To stay in service for 30 years, the
aircraft that need to be flying 30 years from now need to
be in development today. I think that we will start
seeing regional electric aircraft happen. And I think that will certainly
be in the next 15 years. Every type of transport is going
electric has already gone electric and planes are next. And it’s
not just some far-out future. It’s happening right now.

100 thoughts on “Why Don’t We Have Electric Planes Yet?

  1. Because flights already doesnt work during a storm n blizzard… if u make them all electric… they wont work during storm,blizzards n black outs.

  2. USD 40B of revenue eliminated from Airline Balance Sheets???? Is this guy for real. Revenue lands on the P&L, Receivables land on Balance sheet. I can see this dude just showed up for the interview.

  3. Electric plane might is on its way, Elon musk might is developing it and someday gonna announce it, let's looking forward to it

  4. Other countries have a solution to congestion. It's called an integrated mass transit system.
    If we try to just move road congestion to the skies we a) won't solve the problem on the ground because only the rich will be able to pay to fly and b) we will invest massive amounts of resources into a solution that only benefits the rich and neglect the pollution and congestion problems for the other 99%.

  5. Calling electric planes environmentally friendly is complete horse manure. They didn't even talk about the toxic waste that's produced when manufacturing those batteries. Then there's the horrible conditions those little children in Africa and China must endure mining the rare Earth metals needed to build those batteries. Oh and then there's the fact that most of our electricity comes from coal so electric cars and plans are really just coal-powered cars and planes.

  6. Petro dollars, centralised banks, and oil lobby, electromagnetic fields and electromagnetic generators can power planes, nikola tesla patented loads and thought out ideas 1900s.

  7. Climate change is a EU/UN agenda, FART TAX. co2 emissions, what about all the volcanos erupting all over the world, climate activices arnt ranting & raving over them spewing out co2 carbon etc ?
    Electric planes, why not, but plenty of pollution being created in making & maintaining them as well ?

  8. Idiotic… Those fools appearing on the interview are scamming public money in uber, etc…
    Hydrogen can be the only green and carbon free fuel for aeroplanes and ships… Weight of battery will be humongous compared to the self weight of plane

  9. Because nobody wants to be the first to fly in electric plane. You don't see a big line forming to fly in an electric plane. It's not the first thing on our minds.

  10. Because we didnt pour enough money to overwrite the laws of thermodynamics (yet)!

    Or at least that's the "logic" of this video

  11. Why doesn't CNBC have viewers that are intelligent enough to answer simple questions like "why don't we have electric airplanes yet?" yet?

  12. Air mobility is nonsense. It's a helicopter. Must be some company like SoftBank investing in this and pushing this BS marketing

  13. Battery chemistry is well understood there will be no miracle battery with an order of magnitude better energy storage. The energy density of lithium ion batteries is pathetic. Lithium ion batteries will only ever be useful in niche markets. They will never be useful in ships, train, long haul trucking, agriculture tractors and combines, et al. For now and the foreseeable future if you need to get the job done you’re going be using fossil fuels. Ammonia might be able to replace some diesel fuel, some day, but I’m not holding my breath. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_density#/media/File:Energy_density.svg

  14. Clothing produces more greenhouse gases than aviation and shipping combine… So let's fix the clothes we wear instead of wasting money on electric engines 😂🤯

  15. Why not use a Hydrogen Fuel Cell? That solves your energy density / weight problem, and can be replaced with batteries it the tech proves promising. There are already several Hydrogen EVs on the market, the tech is proven.

  16. Think about it…… how could electric generate the same power of thrust that’s needed to get off the ground. We need a reactor or something like Ironman in each jet and that’s science fiction. Battery operated planes is not feasible, try doing that with a 747.

  17. 1960's – Oil gone in 10 years

    1970's – another ice age in 10 years

    1980's – acid rain will destroy all crops in 10 years

    1990's – The ozone layer will be destroyed in 10 years

    2000's – The icecaps will be gone in 10 years

    None happened, but all resulted in more taxes.aa

  18. If planes gotta batteries with it, make sure they have USB type C port, and let the passengers bring their Powerbank, say no to low batteries in the air !

  19. wow! seems like an add to acquire more and more tax dollars for these companies getting rich. also i do believe we just don't have that much lithium so will require a different source for electrical power!

  20. Already electric aircraft are started hope we will see electric planes very soon

    http://virallynews.com/worlds-first-all-electric-commercial-aircraft-takes-off/

  21. Jet engines on commercial aircraft produce up 100,000 ibs plus of thrust each, there won't be any battery technology in the next 1000 years! Get real!!!!

  22. After seeing the way batteries have improved in just the past 5 to 10 years I don't know why anyone questions the future of electric power over combustion.

  23. Guys…here is how this works going forward. Unless there's a MONSTER technological breakthrough (that we have no idea about at all right now) in battery technology….the next giant move forward in aviation will not happen until the Fusion Economy is up and running. When fusion power has created a paradigm where there is a GLUT of electrical energy that means it's so accessible to be "nearly" free…we will see plants created to extract carbon straight out of the atmosphere and process it back into jet fuel. THAT will be the way that planes are "electrically" powered.

    Fantastically cheap power sourced from to-be-seen fusion power plants will energize "air refineries" that will extract carbon form the air and turn it into jet fuel. That jet fuel will be loaded into planes using traditional jet engines an those planes will fly using fuel that was "ultimately" created from fusion electricity. I don't see this magic jump in battery efficiency that will be able to both overcome the energy density problem that we see with lithium-ion batteries today….or the OTHER problem that they don't bother to touch on in this video. Namely that planes become LIGHTER as they burn jet fuel and thus extend their range…but do NOT become lighter as they expend the energy in battery-powered engines. The weight of the electric plane that lands is essentially the same as the weight of the plane that took off.

    Aircraft are literally designed with the fact that landing weights will be significantly less than take-off weights today. Having the same weight when landing as when taking off is a MAJOR engineering hurdle to overcome that nobody is talking about.

  24. thumbs down all this new technology, all these folks that's going to not have jobs .
    so who going to be able to afford to travel in their
    HIGH PRICED air planes?

  25. Yes…just keep building all that new technology with robots and AI and I wonder who your consumers will be that need to get to work. Oh wait, what work?

  26. Tesla had that SOLVED if we could TRANSMIT the electricity to the plane?. distance would not be a factor, nor batteries.

  27. Perhaps they should have interviewed more academics, engineers, and regulators, and less PR managers of companies which happen to be more interested in selling their technology.
    Also realistic environmental and financial analysis (not just pie in the sky opinions) is more welcome to this discussion.

  28. The light trainer aircraft going electric is still a big deal, it will help immensely with lowering the cost to train new pilots helping with the pilot shortage

  29. You would think we would have electric ships by now. Since ships can carry heavier loads they can handle more and bigger batteries and perhaps solar panels.

  30. We don't have electric planes because the powerful interests telling you CO2 is your enemy don't want them – that simple. What, they're gonna tell Harrison "Extinction Rebellion" Ford he has to give up his fleet of aircraft, or even his collection of vintage cars? NO. At a third of a billion personal wealth, Harry is a member of the club, and more to the point has the correct opinions even if he is a towering hypocrite. You just don't get it:

    "The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." – H.L. Mencken, 1918. Have we learned nothing in a hundred years? And here's a worst-case scenario for you, inspired by learning that Ireland will soon ban the personal automobile:

    "'How does one man assert his power over another, Winston?'
    Winston thought. 'By making him suffer,' he said.
    'Exactly. By making him suffer. Obedience is not enough. Unless he is suffering, how can you be sure that he is obeying your will and not his own?'

    'You don't even control the climate…'" – George Orwell.

    What, "scientists agree"? No, they don't. Do you even have the slightest idea what science is and how it's practiced? No, you don't. Do you really trust journalists and politicians to provide you with all the information you need to make an informed decision? Don't be so damn naive!

    “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it…It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.” – Josef Goebbels.

  31. Because you don't use batteries to power motors – you use hydrogen fuel cells….or some other new power technology… Batteries are NOT going to solve this problem….

  32. Summary: Power to Weight Ratio, ergo Physics. It is ok for toy planes, as they are light, ok for rail as they don't need to carry the power source (they have electrified rails or power lines to attach to).

  33. This video is a waste of time. The biggest reason why the Electric cars and flights don’t get better is because the existing industry makes it harder for them by bribing politicians. Just like the cars dealers screwed Tesla in Texas.

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