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Electric aircraft: Myth or reality?

Posted 7 January 2019 · Add Comment

Jetex is partnering with US start-up, Wright Electric, to revolutionise private jet aviation and support electric aircraft for short-haul flights. Anuradha Deenapanray and Vincent Chappard look at other projects enabling people to envisage flying without using jet fuel.

The challenges surrounding CO2 emissions, noise pollution, and the price of kerosene have pushed aircraft and engine manufacturers, and airlines, to look for possible new designs and explore the potential of electric aircraft.
There are now concrete projects for electric civil aircraft that could fly between 2020 and 2027.
In 2017, EasyJet launched a project, in collaboration with Wright Electric, to put an electric aircraft into service by 2027.
Wright Electric already has a two-seater aircraft able to demonstrate how the technology works. The next step is to scale this technology up to a 10-seater and, eventually, to a single aisle short-haul commercial aircraft.
“We look forward to commercialising our electric aircraft for the large and growing short-haul flight markets,” said Jeffrey Engler, CEO and founder of Wright Electric.
Its goal is to make every short-haul flight a zero-emissions enterprise within 20 years. According to Wright, its aircraft will be 50% quieter and 10% less expensive to operate. They would have a maximum range of 540km with a capacity ranging from 120 to 220 seats.
Jetex gave a major push to the project last April through its partnership with Wright Electric. It will be the first general aviation company globally to support electric aircraft for short-haul flights.
Jetex will implement the charging infrastructure and full support for electric jets, expanding throughout the vast Jetex Global fixed-base operations (FBO) network, starting in Dubai.
Jetex president and CEO, Adel Mardini, recently stated that his company is constantly building a new reality in the aviation industry.
For Jetex, there is a need to explore new technologies and new methods for the travel segment. Many companies from all around the world understand that this need exists and are investing in it. However, they have not considered a fundamental aspect: infrastructure.
To operate the electric aircraft it’s important to find ways to quickly recharge the batteries or change them easily so that they can make multiple trips in one day.
“We are working on the setting up of electrical charging stations, as well as on logistics like parking,” a Jetex spokesperson said. “We predict that travelling in an electric aircraft will be more convenient for the private jet travellers. This innovative aircraft will provide our busy customers with an unparalleled flight experience.”
Airbus and Boeing are also working on similar projects.
Airbus began its journey towards electric flight in 2011 with the E-Fan technology demonstrator, the world’s first all-electric two-engine aircraft to take off by its own power.
In 2015, it successfully crossed the British Channel, some 106 years after Louis Blériot’s epic flight from France to England.
In 2017, Airbus teamed up with Siemens and Rolls-Royce to launch the E-Fan X. It is scheduled to fly in 2020, following a comprehensive ground-test campaign on a BAe 146 flying testbed. “We see hybrid-electric propulsion as a compelling technology for the future of aviation,” explained Paul Eremenko, Airbus chief technology officer.
The E-Fan X demonstrator will explore the challenges of high-power propulsion systems on electric systems and electromagnetic compatibility issues.
For its part, Boeing has launched a hybrid-powered aircraft project by partnering with start-up Zunum Aero and JetBlue Technology Ventures. The partners are developing a regional hybrid-electric aircraft for the early 2020s, offering unmatched door-to-door speeds and reduced costs for flights from 700 miles at launch, to more than 1,000 miles by 2030. Early October, Safran Helicopter Engines has been selected to power ZA10 electric generator.

For Boeing “these 10-50 seat aircraft will pave the way to a golden era of fast and affordable electric air travel, reversing the 70-year consolidation of air services”.
 

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