Did you know that one short round-trip flight from San Francisco to Los Angeles accounts for nearly 200 pounds of carbon emissions? Flight is unquestionably a marvel of engineering and a convenience that has connected the entire world, but it would be irresponsible to suggest it hasn’t had an effect on the environment. Just as car manufacturers have begun to make the switch to electric power, we may soon see the same trend in aviation manufacturers as well. Pioneering aviation startups all over the world are working to eliminate the need for fuel in flight and we are now closer than ever to fully-electric aviation.
Believe it or not, the concept of electric flight was first tested as long ago as the 19th century. A duo of French military engineers, Charles Renard and Arthur Constantin Krebs, equipped an aircraft with batteries and an electric motor in the 1880s. While this is not a new concept, the last fifteen years have seen the greatest strides in electric flight. The 21st century has seen several notable electric flights, some lasting just twenty minutes, some lasting days. These innovations couldn’t be coming at a better time, with jet fuel prices on the rise and the public’s call for reduced emissions.
Startup aviation companies such as Ampaire and Wright Electric are working on planes for regional travel, with Ampaire planning six and nineteen-seat passenger airplanes and Wright imagining a 150-seat aircraft. Ampaire’s project, a hybrid airplane called TailWind, is set to be ready by the end of 2019. Despite a multitude of companies vying for the top spot, the industry in its current state is very collaborative, according to Ampaire CEO Kevin Noertker. He has said that all companies are trying to find their footing and the competition hasn’t begun. This is great news for consumers, as it likely means fully electric airplanes will be here sooner rather than later.
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