An electric aircraft is an airplane powered by electricity, most often via one or more electric engines that drive propellers. The electricity probably comes from some kind of battery, and the aircraft’s electrical systems usually draw their power from an on-board generator. Power can also be supplied to the aircraft from a number of alternate sources, the most popular among them being solar cells or fuel cells. The engines on an electric aircraft are air cooled to reduce the air resistance around the engines, which is also used to make the engines more responsive. To store this power, an accumulator is used. In general, an electric aircraft’s system is quite simple and its systems powered only by electricity.
With advances in technology, there have been a number of attempts to develop electric airplanes. One of these was the Electro Wizard, which was a scaled-down version of the full sized hydrogen bomb that NASA developed in the 1970s. After many delays and problems, this project was finally abandoned in favor of building a hybrid airplane powered by a series of batteries. However, electric airplanes remain a long way off from being launched into the sky by one of these prototypes. This is because developing an efficient battery for electric airplanes is not as easy as developing a battery for an internal combustion engine.
Most modern electric airplanes are now powered either by solid-state electronic systems, or by alternative sources such as a series of rechargeable nickel-cadmium batteries, or lithium polymer cells. These batteries are the most commonly used in commercial operations today. In some cases, one of these batteries will power an avionics system, such as the onboard computer, avionics instruments, or the lighting system. In other cases, the batteries will power machinery that either supplements the on-board machinery, or is entirely independent. Some of these batteries can even supply enough energy to operate the vehicle on rough terrain.
The invention of electric propulsion heralded the dawn of electric aviation. Electric aircraft are cleaner, faster, and more energy efficient than their nitrous counterparts, making them a better choice for commercial use. They have also remained quiet, allowing for increased levels of aerodynamic safety. However, there was still one major limitation when it came to commercial electric flight: it could only be used on small scale models. It would be decades before electric aviation would be available to general public.
With the advent of the Second World War, aviation became a more important concern for governments across the world. As the fighting continued, the need for reliable, efficient military aircraft became more important. Because of this, electrical powered warplanes were issued a “green light” to fly, allowing for experimentation with new technologies before full commercialization. Electric aircraft would soon become a reality as commercial aviation got underway. Much of this development was spurred by the United States Army Air Force’s Electric Aircraft project, which paved the way for future advancements in electric aircraft. Today, nearly all fighter jets can be flown with the assistance of electric motors; although the overall efficiency of electric powered planes remains low.
Although the benefits of using electric power in general remain a debatable topic, most private pilots agree that it is more convenient and safer to fly with an engine that is powered by electricity. Electric powered airplanes offer greater thrust for longer flights, and this allows for less fuel to be expended over the entire duration of a flight. The savings not only allow for less fuel expenses, but also less noise and greater control over the environment during take off and landings. Electric aircraft are also quieter, which is important for airline operations. All of these factors combine to make electric flights an attractive option for both businesses and consumers.
Currently, all United States certified airlines are required to be flown using fully electric aircraft. To make this transition seamless, many airlines have adopted the “new” DOT-specific regulations that require electric aircraft to meet certain specifications before being cleared for commercial service. An increasing number of international airlines are beginning to follow suit, making the international aviation industry more open to electric flight. This new policy has drawn a number of interest from companies looking to invest in the electric aircraft sector. As certification for electric light sport aircraft continues to grow in popularity, more companies will likely begin to add this fuel alternative to their list of options.
The growth of this market has created several opportunities for interested investors. Recently, an individual investor group was successful in obtaining a majority stake in EVTOL Aircraft Corporation, a company developing a full scale electric version of the popular ATR. The investment into this company gave them the opportunity to take control of the future of commercial aviation. The company is currently focusing on developing a lightweight, all-electric personal air craft that will be used for general aviation, low-stop air travel, and other low-scale aerial applications. Other interested investors include Peter Reinhart andirk Davenport, who each started their own EVTOL aircraft manufacturing company.