back to article All-electric plane makes first flight – while lugging 2 tons of batteries aloft

An all-electric commercial aeroplane made its first test flight, heralding advances in propulsion and battery technology alike. The modified Cessna Grand Caravan, a single-engined cargo/passenger aircraft used on short distance hops, was test-flown in the US on 28 May with a 750hp electric motor fitted in place of its gas …

  1. Chris G Silver badge

    I really don't see 'e'aviation really taking off before there is a safer alternative to several thousand 18650s soldered into place, both toxic and horribly flammable, you wouldn't want that having a firey end near you.

    If something like vanadium redox gets a bit further with higher energy densities it could provide a way forward, being non toxic and not inclined to burst into flames when you poke a hole in it, it may provide an answer.

    5-8kW installations are already available for domestic installation as back up or PV storage and it has little to no discharge over time on standby.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Sure. Because everybody knows that jetfuel doesn't burn.

      *cough* TWA Flight 800 *cough*

      1. Chris G Silver badge

        There are additives in jet fuel to reduce the fire risk in the event of an accident. Of course it doesn't completely prevent fire but it is not as bad as you might think.

        Lithium, however, Will, ignite when exposed to air to the point where it can be explosive and we are talking here about enough energy to lift a plane. That is without beginning to consider toxicity and environmental damage involved in the extraction of lithium.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          True jet fuel does contain additives, but I'd still defend with the point that the entire PURPOSE of jet fuel is to burn, albeit in a controlled manner rather than explosively.....but I'd also counteract that well designed batteries keep the cells apart in order to prevent thermal runaway. Presumably they'd also be kept in a sealed compartment which only vents to the outside in the event it's needed.

          Modern jets are already full of lithium batteries anyway - just look at the Dreamliner.

          The point I'm trying to make is that most methods of propulsion are dangerous in principle simply because they pack a large amount of energy into a small space...that's kind of how fuel works. But any technology has risks and workarounds...they've had decades of practice to make jet fuel based systems work relatively safely, and the same will happen with electrical power. It's not inherently dangerous, it just needs to be managed. Just like we did with jet fuel.

          1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

            Jet fuel doesn't spontaneously recombust hours after being extinguished, in an otherwise safe environment. Lithium cells have been known to do that.

            1. robidy Silver badge

              They are already in airliners and have already caused "thermal incidents" grounding planes as reported on elReg.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nice stunt...

    But all it proves is that battery tech ain't there yet, which anyone with half a brain knew already.

    “The cabin of the plane was obstructed by two tons of lithium-ion batteries and cooling equipment, with little room for passengers. It certainly wasn’t a cabin setup that would make any sense commercially,”

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Nice stunt...

      Especially since that has already been done in 2019: harbour-air-and-magnix-announce-successful-flight-of-worlds-first-commercial-electric-airplane

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

        Re: Re: Nice stunt...

        Yeah, that was a little DHC-2 Beaver. This is a larger Cessna. I've made that clearer in the article.

        C.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Nice stunt...

          Yes I meant more in the lines of = fairly pointless stunt where the plane can only lift the batteries.

          At least with the seaplane you have somewhere to land when the red light comes on!

          1. zuckzuckgo Bronze badge
            Joke

            Re: Nice stunt...

            >fairly pointless stunt ...

            Could be used for a battery delivery service. A no-charge service at that.

    2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: Nice stunt...

      Yup.. Little room for passengers, luggage, and a challenge common to traditional aviation. Like landing. Landing weight is usually lower than take-off weight because aircraft get lighter as they fly. Or have to dump fuel to get to a safe landing weight & land. That doesn't happen in e-aviation so landing gear would need to be reinforced to cope with landing 2 tons of empty batteries.. And those carry their own hazards-

      https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-09784-z

      This paper presents quantitative measurements of heat release and fluoride gas emissions during battery fires for seven different types of commercial lithium-ion batteries.

      Interesting paper. I'd seen reports of the risk of HF during battery fires, and wondered where the the F came from.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Nice stunt...

        Large passenger planes often have maximum landing weight restrictions that are lower than the allowed take-off weight - but single engined aircraft don't (in case of engine failure on takeoff). Actually the difference in between take off and landing weight allowances tends to be most significant (unsurprisingly) for larger long range aircraft. By the time you are in 2 engine commuter style turboprops there is often little difference.

    3. juice Silver badge

      Re: Nice stunt...

      > But all it proves is that battery tech ain't there yet, which anyone with half a brain knew already.

      Yeah. A standard Cesna carries around 40 gallons of fuel, which looks to weigh around 110kg (he says, wildly rounding figures).

      This little experiment involved two tons of batteries and the plane flew for just 30 minutes; an ICE-powered Cesna can stay aloft for 6 or more hours, depending on speed, height etc.

      So it still comes down to the fact that battery energy capacity needs to increase at least tenfold (if you believe their claim that they've already halved the battery weight) for this electric system to be commercially viable.

      At least they'll already have their engine proven and ready!

  3. davenewman

    The problem is that they haven't redesigned the plane to make it much lighter.

    Aren't they already using an electric plane between 2 islands in the Orkneys, where the flight is only 5 minutes long?

    1. The First Dave Silver badge

      I would imagine they had to redesign the plan a little to allow it to carry all that battery weight.

      I also imagine that there wasn't much weight to remove in the first place - this wasn't some Chelsea Tractor at the beginning.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The obvious solution is to make the plane out of styrofoam.

      Was disappointed that they aren't using LiPo batteries...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It's not running but the researchers did manage to bag £9m worth of government funding.

      https://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/fp/news/islands/1893676/electric-plane-plan-for-islands-receives-uk-government-cash/

      Should be more than enough beer money for a couple of years by which point the idea will be scrapped on feasibility grounds!

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        >researchers did manage to bag £9m worth of government funding.

        So a trip to home depot to buy a LOT of extension cords - no need for batteries

    4. Tom Chiverton 1

      Indeed. Batteries should be formed into the wings, for instance

      1. AdamWill

        They are already working on this, but you have to jump through a *ton* more regulatory hoops to fly a brand new plane design with batteries than you do to fly an existing, extremely-well tested plane with the power source changed out. They're doing these tests with retrofitted existing planes to work on what they can until all the relevant approvals are in place for the planned purpose-built electric plane models. And to get a bit of publicity, of course.

      2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Indeed. Batteries should be formed into the wings, for instance.

        Sure, if aircraft manufacturers want to spend their own money on such things. But I'm guessing it wouldn't be cheap. So working with a wing's internal volume, plus routing cooling/heating for batteries into the wings so they can work reliably in all weather*. Then for high wing designs, what effect having all that mass in the wings would affect wing loading & general handling.

        But despite ecofreaks wanting electric everything, it still won't be able to overcome the fundamental physics problems, like fossil fuels have waay more energy per unit mass/volume than batteries, motors and support kit.

        *Now curious about that aspect, ie how performance/range varies based on weather conditions, especially cold winters & icing conditions.

  4. Andy 73

    Not really new..

    Yuneec (which at the time was 50% British owned) developed the E430 Commercial 2 seater aircraft eleven years ago. It won various awards but was sadly not developed further.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yuneec_International_E430

    1. someone_stole_my_username

      Re: Not really new..

      If you really want to, you can go out today and buy a Pipistrel Alpha Electric.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pipistrel_Alpha_Trainer

      Tradeoffs: it has a very limited endurance, and a limited payload.

  5. vtcodger Silver badge

    Could someone check the numbers?

    I'm in no way shape or form an aeronautical engineer -- which should make all of you feel a bit safer. But if I take the empty weight of a Cessna Caravan (2145kg), subtract maybe 200kg for replacing the normal turboprop with an electric motor, add 2 tons of batteries (1814kg), I get a takeoff weight of 3759kg with no cargo, no passengers, and no pilot. Subtract that from the maximum takeoff weight of 3969kg and the payload would be 210kg. Enough for a pilot, a parachute (I suspect any sane test pilot for this thing would want at least one),a sixpack of beer, and a not overly large dog.

    I wonder if someone who knows what they are doing could check the numbers.

    1. Flip

      Re: Could someone check the numbers?

      Just as the article stated:

      "Although it is a big step in research 'n' development terms, it is not quite a commercial thing just yet: "The cabin of the plane was obstructed by two tons of lithium-ion batteries and cooling equipment, with little room for passengers. It certainly wasn't a cabin setup that would make any sense commercially," reported the newspaper.

      I think it would be neat to experience flying in an e-plane that has no (or very little) engine noise.

      1. Willy Ekerslike

        Re: Could someone check the numbers?

        "I think it would be neat to experience flying in an e-plane that has no (or very little) engine noise."

        Along with thousands of others, I've already experienced that - when I flew a glider. Wind noise takes over. My car (a hybrid) has no engine noise when pooling around town, either, though you then appreciate how much noise comes from types on tarmac...

        1. Def Silver badge

          Re: Could someone check the numbers?

          Once you reach a certain speed most noise in a commercial jet is from the wind. This is most noticeable in planes with the engines mounted on the tail. They’re pretty quiet on take off, but the wind noise soon becomes apparent during the climb out.

          1. Thicko

            Re: Could someone check the numbers?

            And the silence on descen in a rear engine plane t can be a little startling too if you are sitting at the front where you can loose the throttled back engine noise completely under the wind noise.

      2. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

        Re: Could someone check the numbers?

        A very high proportion of the noise made by anything with a propeller on it comes from the prop, specifically from the outer part of the blades and the tips, so using an electric motor to spin the prop may not make much difference to the noise level.

        Thats why most glider tugs in the UK use smaller diameter four blade props: reducing the prop diameter gives a fairly large noise reduction because the tip speeds are a lot lower at the same RPM. There's a disadvantage too - the four blader is less efficient, partly because the aircraft cowling drag is relatively larger than it would be on a larger diameter two blade prop and partly because the more blades there are on a prop, the more interblade interference there is, but we put up with that for the sake of our neighbours.

        If you really want to find out about silent flight, though, go here to find your nearest gliding club in the UK

        https://www.gliding.co.uk/club-finder/

        Other countries have similar sites. Visit your nearest club, see what its all about and, if you like what you see, take a trial flight. But, you'll have to wait until COVID-19 abates rather more and we can operate two-seat gliders again: 2m social separation in a glider cockpit - you'd have to be kidding!

        1. DropBear
          Trollface

          Re: Could someone check the numbers?

          Clearly not in a glider, but 2m might just be possible with a biplane if the passenger is offered the traditional stand-on-the-top-of-the-wing "seat"...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Could someone check the numbers?

      Leave the dog behind and you get a small polypin of beer on board. I'm guessing that this wasn't 'hey look at my useful electric plane' but rather 'look at this cool drop in replacement for a turboprop. All aviation design is about compromise - and the Caravan was designed as an efficient load hauler, so good weight carrying capacity and space for your battery pack to show that your ideas work. If you wanted to make it useful you could redesign the wing etc. to gain payload - that might compromise performance in other ways, but maybe for a literal puddle jumper it would work economically. And as batteries get better (or fuel cells lighter or whatever) they will have a certified motor ready to go.

    3. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Enough for ... a not overly large dog

      But does the dog get a 'chute?

      -----> The one with the inbuilt flying squirrel glide-flaps and parachute please.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Compulsory El Reg commentary moan

    Just to save everyone time, can we take the usual El Reg commentary as read?

    1. It will never work.

    2. We are about to run out of Lithium

    3. It will take too long to recharge

    4. The batteries are too heavy and the plane will never fly

    5. I personally only ever need to fly to New Zealand non stop with an entourage of 500 people and my race horses.

    6. It will catch fire and explode

    7. Heathrow only has 3 spare 13 amp plug sockets

    Have I missed anything?

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Re: Compulsory El Reg commentary moan

      8 - Don't forget the children.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Compulsory El Reg commentary moan

      8. The captain will find that WH Smith's never have any spares in stock

      9. It's a bugger to find that little ribbon to hook out the batteries

    3. naive

      Re: Compulsory El Reg commentary moan

      Maybe El-Reg readers are on average a bit more proficient in physics ?:

      https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c6/Energy_density.svg

      A Lithium-Ion battery has 0.25 MJ/Kg. kerosene has 44 MJ/Kg.

      Kerosene has a weight to energy ratio outperforming L-ION by a factor of 176.

      Since there is a 1:1 relation between weight of planes and their energy use, it is hard to imagine that electric planes will be an efficient solution given the current state of battery technology.

      Extrapolate the Cessna to a 747-8, having an empty weight of 221T, this is 70 Cessna's, which would require 140 ton of L-Ion batteries to take off.

      1. juice Silver badge

        Re: Compulsory El Reg commentary moan

        > A Lithium-Ion battery has 0.25 MJ/Kg. kerosene has 44 MJ/Kg.

        It's not quite that simple; converting electricity to motion is more efficient than converting fuel to movement - about 80% vs 40% for a jet engine, from yet more poking around the interwebs.

        The rule of thumb I saw in a few places indicates a weight ratio of 20:1 is reasonable for batteries vs fuel, so I took that and ran with it ;)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Compulsory El Reg commentary moan

        and hopefully some of them remember that a heat engine is at best about 30% efficient in turning fuel into work, and an electric motor can maybe hit 90%, so actually your factor is 59.And you decided to use Li-Ion batteries - let's use Li-Air batteries that achieve 6MJ/kg. So with that 30% to 90% efficiency your kerosene is about 2 times more energy dense. OK, you win by chucking your fuel out the back - but it's not nearly as clear cut as it is often made out by the '640K ought to be enough for anybody." brigade.

        1. el_oscuro
          Boffin

          Re: Compulsory El Reg commentary moan

          To torture this a little bit more, here is a car analogy, also poked around from teh Interwebs:

          Tesla Model 3: 3,552 to 4,100 lbs and a range of 250 to 322 miles.

          Toyota Camry: 3,241 to 3,572 lbs and a range of about 450-500 miles

          So electric is heavier and has less range, but difference isn't quite as much as most people think.

          1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
            Boffin

            Re: Compulsory El Reg commentary moan

            Which hints at the big advantage of electric propulsion... when you don't need to push, you can run the system in reverse and generate electricity to (partially) recharge the batteries. With combustion fuels you don't stand much chance of creating more fuel. (Except possibly hydrogen...)

            1. juice Silver badge

              Re: Compulsory El Reg commentary moan

              > Which hints at the big advantage of electric propulsion... when you don't need to push, you can run the system in reverse and generate electricity to (partially) recharge the batteries

              This reminds me of a conversation I occasionally have with an older relative, usually when sipping some whisky. For some reason, they're convinced that electric motors are an example of closed-system/perpetual motion engine, and that they should never need recharging as the electrons can just be endlessly recycled.

              Sadly, in the real world, it's not a closed system. Some of that energy is converted into movement. And some energy is lost as part of the conversion, usually in the shape of heat (which generally serves no real purpose, other than to help demist the windscreen in winter). Either way, that energy is gone from the system.

              You can't just "run the system in reverse". In an electric vehicle, you can use things like regenerative braking to convert some of your kinetic energy back into electricity, but that's yet another lossy conversion process.

              And you can do something similar in modern ICE vehicles too - if you're travelling downhill, the vehicle can take advantage of the acceleration effects of gravity and reduce the amount of fuel being injected into the cylinders.

              So no, there's no free lunches here. I suppose you could potentially get some "free" energy by plastering the roof of your car in solar panels, but the energy efficiency of these isn't particularly great, and they wouldn't work too well during the winter or a British summer ;)

              1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

                Re: Compulsory El Reg commentary moan

                And you can do something similar in modern ICE vehicles too - if you're travelling downhill, the vehicle can take advantage of the acceleration effects of gravity and reduce the amount of fuel being injected into the cylinders.

                Bloody technofetishists! Fit an accelerometer/inclinometer to the vehicle so it can talk to the ECU and thence to the injectors.. And kind of de-couple an important linkage between driver, their right foot and a pedal.

                Alternatively, driver just lifts their foot off the gas a little when they're going down hill. Or if they're not in an Audi/BMW*, when they're approaching slow moving/stationary traffic. I'm still not convinced that idiot-proofing driving is a good idea, when driving is the most dangerous thing idiots probably do. Regenerative braking/KERS-type systems are possible in ICE/hybrids though, but sadly mostly in really expensive ones where it's used to make them go faster.

                *You know those drivers. They wait until they can see the whites of your eyes in your rear view mirror, then slam on their brakes/horn/headlight flashers. But it could be worse, it could be a Tesla on 'autopilot' behind you.

              2. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
                Facepalm

                Re: Compulsory El Reg commentary moan

                Nobody claimed that it was a closed system or that you could recover 100% of the energy.

                The simple fact remains that an electric motor being spun from an external force generates electricity, so a plane descending can recover some charge (maybe 10%, but that's still 10% that doesn't need topping up on the ground)

                An ICE cannot generate more fuel under any circumstances (oil seeping through into the fuel doesn't count!)

                1. juice Silver badge

                  Re: Compulsory El Reg commentary moan

                  > Nobody claimed that it was a closed system or that you could recover 100% of the energy.

                  My elderly relative did, and that's who I was discussing ;)

                  Though also, the term "run in reverse" at least somewhat implies that you can recover 100% of the energy. And that's definitely untrue, not least because we don't just run an electric motor "in reverse", but instead use another system which is specifically designed to convert kinetic energy into electricity.

                  Aka regenerative braking.

                  > The simple fact remains that an electric motor being spun from an external force generates electricity, so a plane descending can recover some charge (maybe 10%, but that's still 10% that doesn't need topping up on the ground)

                  The problem is that this still isn't "free" energy. Because the plane had to use energy to rise up to the level it was at before it started descending. All it's doing is reclaiming /some/ of the energy it used when rising.

                  (It looks like a Tesla can theoretically recover up to 64% of it's energy via regenerative braking, but I genuinely don't know how that would translate for a plane, as a quick glance just turned up a few theoretical papers and discussions of things like applying regenerative braking to the wheels when landing, which is interesting, but presumably a relatively small percentage of the energy used for the trip)

                  > An ICE cannot generate more fuel under any circumstances (oil seeping through into the fuel doesn't count!)

                  But it can use /less/ fuel by using engine braking or by taking advantage of gravity. And as such, while the process differs slightly, the outcome is the same for both types of engine:

                  ICE engine: burns fuel during climb, reduces fuel burn during descent. Result: less fuel used

                  e-Engine: uses electricity during climb, reclaims some electricity during descent. Result: less electricity used

                  To be fair, it's difficult to say how the efficiencies of the two processes compare. But it's also worth noting that the ICE engine also has a secondary advantage of sorts (over and above the current 20:1 weight ratio between batteries and petroleum fuel): because it's consuming the fuel, the plane's weight will reduce as it travels.

                  This doesn't make a significant difference when it comes to cars - after all, they generally only lug around up to 70l (60kg) of fuel, which is a tiny fraction of their weight.

                  (A full take would be about 3% of my old Mondeo's curb weight, apparently!)

                  But for a commercial plane, the fuel is a significant percentage of the weight. And the lighter the plane gets, the less fuel it has to use.

                  E.g. https://modernairliners.com/boeing-747-8/boeing-747-8i-and-8f-specs/

                  This 747 model weighs 220 tonnes, and can weigh up to 448 tonnes when fully fueled and loaded. Which gives it a carrying capacity of approx. 230 tonnes, which can be split between fuel (max 200 tonnes) and passengers/cargo (max. 76 tonnes).

                  Interestingly, it also has a maximum landing weight of 312 tonnes.

                  So potentially, a 747 can be anywhere up to around 50% lighter when it lands, depending on how far it's flown and how much cargo it's carrying.

                  E.g. for the London -> NY trip, it'd burn around 70 tonnes of fuel and be up to 25% lighter.

                  And that's going to make a difference to the overall fuel economy...

          2. juice Silver badge

            Re: Compulsory El Reg commentary moan

            > So electric is heavier and has less range, but difference isn't quite as much as most people think

            There's a bit of apples and pears going on here.

            Generally, cars are privately owned, carry fairly small payloads and are used for a couple of times a day for fairly short hops (~1.5 passengers per trip, and about 7600 miles per year in the UK, or an average of about 30 miles a day , assuming 20 working days per month)

            Generally, planes are commercially owned, carry heavy payloads (passengers/freight) and are kept as active as possible - a Telegraph article[*] indicates that a Ryanair "euro hop" plane can do seven flights and travel around 4000 miles per day.

            So while you could compare a car to a light plane such as a Cesna, a much more representative comparison would be to use a commercial rig or coach.

            Oddly enough, electric engines haven't really made much inroads in these areas yet[**]; it remains to be seen how well the upcoming wave of electrified vehicles (e.g. Tesla's Semi) will actually perform on both a commercial and functional level.

            Back to the cars, and there's another key difference. The Tesla is carrying around 600kg of batteries. The Camra is carrying around 60kg of fuel.

            As such, it's fairly easy to scale up the range of the Camra; an extra 60kg of fuel would make little difference to the overall weight and double the range.

            To do the same for the Tesla, you'd need an extra 600kg of batteries. Then another lump of batteries atop to account for the extra weight of all those batteries.

            And then there's the fact that jet engines are more efficient than petrol engines (40% vs 20-35%, though I'd guess the Camra is towards the top of the petrol scale). Which again makes it still yet harder for batteries to match their power/weight ratio...

            [*] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/travel-truths/a-week-in-the-life-of-a-plane/

            [**] They have made some inroads when it comes to buses, but these tend to have relatively small circuits and can therefore be recharged multiple times a day. Even then, the wikipedia page indicates that an entire industry has sprung up around the logistics of keeping these buses charged up and moving!

      3. AdamWill

        Re: Compulsory El Reg commentary moan

        I believe your objection is covered under "5. I personally only ever need to fly to New Zealand non stop with an entourage of 500 people and my race horses."

        Magnix is based in the Pacific Northwest, and is working with small local air carriers. The geography of the Pacific Northwest is such that we have quite a lot of small planes doing short runs with a small number of passengers and very limited luggage. Vancouver to Victoria, for instance, is a 30 minute flight which Harbour Air runs with 19-passenger seaplanes:

        https://www.harbourair.com/about/aircraft-fleet/

        they run various other short flights out of Vancouver and up the coast, and there are similar operators down in Portland and Oregon running similar short flights with small planes.

        Those are exactly the operations that Magnix is targeting. Their goal is not to fly a 747 at full load for several hours.

    4. juice Silver badge

      Re: Compulsory El Reg commentary moan

      > 4. The batteries are too heavy and the plane will never fly

      Ooo. *rubs hands*

      At a glance on t'interwebs, it looks like the rule of thumb is about 20:1 for battery weight vs airplane fuel weight. And a 747 uses about 70[*] tons when flying from London to New York. Which means it'd need 1400 tons of batteries to be able to do the same journey.

      Or a mere 700 tons, if we believe the claim in the article that they're going to halve size and weight for their batteries while still (presumably) maintaining the same capacity.

      Either way, take-off is going to be fun ;)

      I'm sure there's some very clever people beavering away to address issues like this, but at the current rate of battery improvements (5-8% per year), it's going to take a long time to reach even just a tenfold improvement.

      (about 40 years, assuming an average of 6% annual compound growth...)

      And that brings us nicely to...

      > 3. It will take too long to recharge

      Working on the basis that Tesla's supercharger can charge 600kg of batteries in about an hour, that 700 tons of batteries would take about 1100 hours. Or about 45 days.

      Admittedly, Tesla is working on a Megacharger[**] for their trucks, which looks like it'll push about six times the charge out. But that'd still take about nine days, and it'll be pushing about a megawatt of power out for nine days solid, which brings it's own engineering and safety challenges.

      Still, I'm again sure there's some bright people looking into this, too!

      But overall, I think I'm going to hold out for Doc Brown's Mr Fusion. After all, cold fusion is still only twenty years away ;)

      [*] Dunno how much of a difference it makes moving to shorter hops; it's not clear from t'interwebs if the 70 tons includes the fuel cost of getting airborne and landing

      [**] Does make me wonder what the next iteration will be called, seeing as how Uber is already taken...)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Compulsory El Reg commentary moan

        You can play the sums in all sorts of ways. I think the first commercial electric planes will probably be aimed at the 500 km inter-city routes. Power consumption in cruise flight for a small turboprop might be as low as 1000/2000 kw/hour, so doing the sums in Teslas - thats 10 tesla battery packs per hour. So 5600 kgs for an hour of flight in cruise. Couple of super capacitors to get you off the ground and you are approaching London to Paris.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Compulsory El Reg commentary moan

          The downside being whether they can be re-charged inside an economical turnaround time. If not, then it#s going to be a batter-pack swap out. And since every manufacturer is "special" they'll all have their own unique and compelling reasons for their battery packs being different to all the others.

          1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

            Re: Compulsory El Reg commentary moan

            Battery swap looks like a shoe-in for commercial aviation use. No one wants to load up a plane with more fuel than is needed for the planned flight and convenience factor is hardly relevant given the sort of effort needed to get a plane airborne. And it open up the possibility to use non-rechargeable chemistries such as aluminium-air.

    5. Imhotep

      Re: Compulsory El Reg commentary moan

      On #7, those sockets are always monopolized by people charging their phone.

      But the Tesla charging stations outside are available.

  7. gotes

    The video

    I was rather hoping to hear what it sounds like, rather than that dreadful soundtrack.

    1. AJames

      Re: The video

      The El Reg story is missing something - this is not the first flight test of the Magnix engine in a commercial airplane - that was in December, in Vancouver, Canada, with Harbour Air testing it in one of their DeHavilland Beaver float planes. There is a video of the first flight (with sound) from a wing-mounted camera in this article: https://www.flightglobal.com/aerospace/harbour-air-to-resume-electric-powered-beaver-flights-as-certification-work-begins/136071.article

      Harbour Air is a local airline serving the BC south coast with float planes making mostly short hops between city harbours, which makes them a good candidate for electric motors with relatively short battery life. They operate a variety of float planes including the Beaver and Cessna Caravans. The float planes have a reputation for making quite a racket on take-off from the harbour, so anything to reduce the noise would be welcome.

      1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

        Re: The video

        If it's take-off noise, what about a hybrid? Enough battery capacity to get you in the air then fire-up a normal engine to power the rest of the flight and recharge the batteries.

      2. drand

        Re: The video

        How about an enormous elastic band?

        1. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

          Re: The video

          You mean like this?

          http://sustainableskies.org/a-chance-to-unwind/

        2. Chris G Silver badge

          Re: The video

          It would be nice to know how many hamsters in wheels would he needed to do a similar job.

          After all, I think they could be classed as a renewable resource.

          1. DropBear
            Trollface

            Re: The video

            Well, you could connect the prop shaft to a long tube made of a number of hamster wheels inside the fuselage; then you could also mount a number of those around the first one, meshing through some sprockets - this might just be crazy enough to work...!

        3. Jim Mitchell

          Re: The video

          Yes, lets bring catapult launches to the commercial air travel! I've seen Top Gun, it looks like massive fun to me...

      3. el_oscuro

        Re: The video

        There is a lot of drag taking off from the water that engine has to overcome that doesn't exist from a normal runway. That plane would probably take off from a runway in like 100 feet.

  8. trevorde

    Recharging time?

    Will probably have to exchange batteries at the destination

  9. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    Why?

    "a drop-in replacement for traditional piston or turboprop engines"

    Unless you can also do a drop-in replacement "fuel" tanks too, then there's still going to be significant re-engineering involved. This feels like a short cut to certification instead designing a purpose built airframe. (and yes, the same applies to cars, as we are seeing nowadays, unlike the early "conversions" of existing chassis)

  10. Chris the bean counter Bronze badge

    Electric planes do not need batteries - Ammonia in a Fuel cell may be better

    Ammonia can be generated from renewables and in a fuel cell create no pollution

    Has very high energy density compared to batteries, when considering its greater efficiency in an electric motor on a par with kerosene.

    Drawback is has to be handled very carefully, however that level of competence is a given at the larger airports.

    Currently the technology for the fuel cell not good enough but a little tinkering...

  11. nautica
    Boffin

    A really loooong extension cord makes more sense...

    "Working on the latest, greatest [storage] battery brings out man's inherent capability for lying."--Thomas A. Edison

    "If the Almighty were to rebuild the world and asked me for advice,‭ ‬I would have English Channels round every country.‭ ‬And the atmosphere would be such that anything which attempted to fly would be set on fire.‭"‬ — Sir Winston Churchill

  12. hairydog

    Pardon?

    I watched this stupid video, not to see what a light aircraft looks like when flying, but to see if it is quieter sounding than a non-electic plane.

    I guess it isn't quieter, or why else would they have put the moronic "drug dealer chimes" attempt at music over the soundtrack?

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