Are hybrid and electric airplanes ready for commercial debut?
CalCars provided a remarkable overview of current hybrid and electric airplane technology and kindly provided a PDF chart, which breaks down the performance numbers of many prototype hybrid and electric airplanes. Glancing over the specs of the many non-commercial aircraft contained in the chart reveals some of the hurdles which still remain for both hybrid and electric planes. For example, the gasoline-powered planes typically cruise at 200-plus miles per hour, but both the hybrids and electrics reach speeds just over 100 mph. The range of the gasoline-powered planes is in the neighborhood of 600-900 miles, but many of the electrics fail to exceed 300 miles. Battery prices for most of the electric airplanes come in around $30,000, but some examples exceed $100,000. The real upside, though, is the cost of flying. While in the air, most of the electrics cost well below $10 per mile to operate, while the gasoline-powered planes typically exceed $30 per mile. Doesn't all of this sound strikingly similar to what we discuss day in, day out with electric and hybrid cars?
All of the specs provided above apply to relatively small aircraft, but when you size up to the commercial level, the real discussion is not one of money or stats, but more of public perception. While it's been argued that commercial aircraft are insanely expensive to purchase and adding the cost of batteries on top of that would go almost unnoticed, we don't really think that the flying public is ready for this sort of thing. Range anxiety is one of the most common concerns for potential electric car buyers and would certainly be much worse when you take to the air. Despite the added complexity, we could see hybrids catching on in the commercial aviation industry someday, maybe. Electrics, though, are highly unlikely. Hey, we're just car guys; let's hope any aviation experts amongst us chime in.
[Source: Beyond the Edge, CalCars | Image: Henrique Vicente - C.C. License 2.0]
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