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June 22, 2021

All-electric flights could take more than ten years to become a reality: Poll

The aviation industry has been under pressure for several years over its environmental impact as it is estimated to account for approximately 2%-3% of global carbon emissions.

The industry has been exploring the use of electric aircraft, but a full-scale carbon-neutral flight could take several years to materialise.

In a poll Verdict has conducted to assess when flying on an all-electric plane can be expected, a majority 54% of the respondents voted that it would take more than ten years, while 23% opined that it would take six to ten years.

Flying on an all-electric plane would take from three to five years according to 13% of the respondents, while just 10% voted that it would happen within the next two years.

Development of all electric aircraft

The analysis is based on 210 responses received from the readers of Airforce Technology, Army Technology, and Naval Technology, Verdict’s defence sites, between 29 March and 02 June 2021.

Development of all electric aircraft

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for the aviation industry to take concrete steps to reduce carbon emissions amid the global drive for green transition. Although electric aircraft are being considering as the best way to reduce carbon emissions in the industry, existing developments are limited to small aircraft.

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Rolls-Royce, for example, is developing the fully electric ACCEL single-seater plane, which is expected to be the fastest electric aircraft capable of reaching speeds of 500kmph. These aircraft may not immediately serve the purpose of carrying passengers but may be useful for flight training and pleasure flights. The Danish Ministry of Defense, for example, recently acquired two Pipistrel Velis Electro electric-powered aircraft for flight training in its Air Force.

Electrification in the industry is also focussed on the development of electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, hydrogen propulsion systems, and replacement of traditional subsystems with electric subsystems. The US Air Force, for example, is developing eVTOL aircraft under its AFWERX Agility Prime programme. It recently awarded airworthiness award to BETA Technologies’ ALIA aircraft, which successfully completed its first interstate flight.

Electrification of long-haul commercial aircraft, however, is limited mainly due to the low efficiency of batteries compared to fossil fuel systems, which are 14 times more energy-dense. The range of an A380 super jumbo, for example, would be reduced from 15,000km to 1,000km, if it relies solely on electric power.

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