The largest electric aircraft to date, a Cessna eCaravan, has successfully passed the test prescribed for it, bringing humanity one step closer to finally being able to travel on environmentally friendly aircraft. However, the most serious problem has still not been resolved.
Electric aircraft can be the future of sustainable aviation. It is not yet known when these could replace the aircraft currently in use, but there are already promising improvements.
An example is the plane that took off from Moses Lake, Washington, USA. The Cessna Grand Caravan flew at a speed of more than 160 km / h at an altitude of about 770 meters and then landed a few laps later, 28 minutes after departure. All of this is not an extra performance for a traditional aircraft, but in this case, an eCaravan landed in the skies.
What makes the aircraft really special is its design: it is powered by a 750-horsepower electric motor that draws power from a package of about 900 kilograms of lithium-ion batteries. The eCaravan weighs more than 4 tons in total and has a wingspan of about 15 meters. There is space for a total of nine people inside the machine. With this, it is the largest electric aircraft to date that has successfully flown, writes NBC News.
While the performance is truly remarkable, batteries are still a major obstacle to the development of electric aircraft, as they are heavy and can only store enough energy for relatively short distances. However, according to the developers, the benefits of e-flying are still more than the disadvantages of the battery. ECaravan has yet to pass a number of tests in the coming months to receive appropriate approvals from the U.S. Aviation Authority. This is likely to happen in 2021.
Roei Ganzarski, head of the American company magniX, which also designed eCaravan, said that when it comes to traveling up to 1,600 km, electric airplanes are better worth using than traditional propeller versions. According to Ganzarski, this is also an important fact because more than half of all air passengers in the world currently travel such distances.
According to the expert, these roads are currently used by airlines that not only waste fuel but also have high emissions. E-machines, on the other hand, are already a much cheaper alternative to these.
All this is not just an assumption, but a concrete fact: to make the half-hour trip, only $ 6 of electricity was needed, which is roughly 1,800 forints. To do the same trip, the traditional version of the plane would have had to be refueled with $ 300 in fuel. In addition, electric motors are lighter and require much less maintenance than classic drives, so they cost much less to operate.
The biggest problem right now is batteries. Due to their high weight, the range of the machines is reduced, which impairs their competitiveness. Currently, one kilogram of lithium-ion battery can store approximately 250 Wh of energy. Researchers are currently working to double this value, but it is questionable when this will succeed. They are now kept at 400 Wh, but they can’t even produce them yet.