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Nasa leads the promotion of electric planes at the next frontier of emission reductions

Flying on batteries presents major technical challenges, but companies will show their best efforts in California next year. Engineers are working on Nasa’s first all-electric plane, the X-57 Maxwell, at the Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base. California. Photo: Mike Blake / Reuters Next year, at a research site around the Mojave Desert in California, Nasa looks for a breakthrough in how to eliminate carbon pollution from aviation, one of the most stubborn challenges of the climate crisis. A new generation electric airplane. Driven by Joe Biden’s quest to reduce U.S. global warming emissions to zero, Nasa aims to phase American electric flight within the next 15 years with batteries instead of jet fuel. Enclosing companies to demonstrate improved ways of powering aircraft through. The electric propulsion demonstration test will be overseen by the Armstrong Flight Research Center in Nasa, north of Los Angeles, with several previous landmarks, including the first crew plane to break the speed of sound. Equally important breakthroughs can be made to address the growing and unsolved question of how to control planetary heating gases caused by the entanglement of commercial flights across the world. At last, the electric plane may be preparing for takeoff. “The industry used to mock the idea of ​​electric planes, but now it’s not. They are very interested in this,” said Glenn Research Center, Nasa, who runs a nearby electric flight test facility. Jim Hydeman, manager of the center’s advanced air transport technology, said. Cleveland, Ohio. For the past decade, Nasa has been working on electric airplanes, working on the laws of physics that have not prevented the mainstream adoption of electric vehicles. Currently, to electrically power a 737-sized jet, you need a battery the size of the airplane itself. “That’s not feasible. It would be too heavy to take off, not to mention flying,” Hydeman said. “Weight is much more important to an airplane than a car.” Long international flights on large airplanes may have to rely on a hybrid model of battery and jet fuel, a type of empty Prius, but lithium. Advances in ion battery technology and other components have also led to the development of smaller ones, propulsion-driven electric aircraft that are now bearing fruit. Nasa created the X-57. This is an experimental two-seater electric plane with a range of about 100 miles and a cruising speed of 172 mph. Private sectors, meanwhile, are aiming for small regional flights up to 500 miles as a first step. Last summer, a modified Cessna capable of carrying nine passengers successfully flew in Washington for 30 minutes, according to AeroTEC. This was a more cost-effective, clean and quiet trip than running on aviation fuel. magniX, the company behind the feat. “At first, we’ll fly up to 20 people, but the technology Nasa is working on will probably extend to 100 people,” co-founded Ampaire, a California-based company recently acquired by Surf Air. Said Kevin Noertker. Another airline, Mobility, is testing a six-seater electric plane in Hawaii and plans to test the technology further in the UK later this year. “It’s easy for local aviation and commuter planes. By the early 2030s, we’ll be able to offer larger, higher-performance electrified planes. For very large planes, some sort of It’s a hybrid. ”What is said to be the world’s first commercial electric plane – a 62-year-old 6-seater DHC-2 De Havilland Beaver surface plane modified from a 750hp electric magni500 propulsion system – will fly in Vancouver, Canada in 2019. To do. Photo: Harbor Air Group / EPA Noertker said the improvement in technology and the promotion from the Biden administration to electrify transportation is “very exciting”. “This is a moment of change in the aviation industry and an inflection point,” he added. However, significant barriers remain. Jet fuel is still much more energy dense than batteries, so this technology is not yet ready for universal adoption. There are other problems as well. Airline regulations do not cover electric planes, and airlines, unlike the automobile industry, produce thousands instead of millions. There is some public concern about being propelled into the sky by avant-garde technology. However, airlines are increasing pressure to reduce emissions to combat the climate crisis. Especially considering the ongoing transition to clean energy in the power sector and other means of transportation. Prior to the industry-hit Covid-19 pandemic, airlines around the world carried record 4.3 billion passengers and carbon dioxide emissions surged 33% in the six years to 2019. The aviation industry accounts for about 2% of global emissions, but this share is set to increase as flights rebound and other sectors begin to embrace renewable energy. Researchers say air travel consumes a quarter of the world’s “carbon balance” to avoid global heating above 1.5 ° C, a point where civilization faces severe climate disasters. It warns that there is a possibility of doing so. Various airlines have promised to reduce emissions to net zero by 2050, but we can’t yet swear that this will be achieved by throwing away jet fuel and using electricity. Other means of interest are found in hydrogen-based fuels, carbon “offsets” that protect forests and other carbon-rich areas, or rabbits advertised by the founders of Virgin Atlantic Airlines. Contains ethanol-based fuels derived from gut bacteria. Sir Richard Branson. The combination of different approaches may prove the way forward. “Many airlines are on the sidelines of what we are doing and our goal is to move as fast as possible to achieve those solutions,” says Noertker. “This is already in the public eye. See the growing shame of the flight, or see France cutting short-haul flights that can take the train instead. Call me an optimist, But getting out of this pandemic is upset and the industry will be more embraced by this technology. Things will change. “

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