Friday, July 23, 2021

Electric Planes: Green That Doesn't Fly

by July 18, 2021 

Electric cars have trouble maintaining momentum for very long, but at least when they run out of range, you just stop.  In an electric airplane, you drop.

It seems like a really bad idea, yet it’s one United Airlines reportedly just bought into — probably for many millions of dollars (the actual sum hasn’t been disclosed). It will “invest” in the development — italics to emphasize the nonexistence at present — of the ES-19, an electric aircraft that exists on the drawing board only. This hypothetical aircraft is being developed by a Swedish company with the cloying name Heart Aerospace — which summons images of kumbaya-ing around the campfire in a collective hug.

But will it fly?  

If electric cars are any indication, this will prove to be an airborne bellyflop even more epic than the Lordstown Motors fail — in which General Motors got gypped into supporting the development of electric trucks that never materialized but for which the supposed manufacturer is alleged to have received numerous “pre-orders,” sight unseen.

Ah yes, my little chickadee!

GM invested $75 million and gave a sweetheart deal on the old not-electric car factory at Lordstown, Ohio — where GM used to actually make cars. When the hilariously named susser-out of corporate shenanigans Hindenburg Research published a report earlier this year accusing Lordstown Motors of pretending to have orders for electric trucks it hadn’t built, confidence in the company cratered and GM pulled the plug, leaving Lordstown a burnt-down cinder, kind of like an auto-immolating Chevy Bolt (also hilariously named).

As of the end of the first quarter of this year, Lordstown Motors conceded net losses of $125 million — and had to report to the SEC earlier this month that it may no longer be “a going concern.”

And those trucks only had to roll.

One wonders how an electric airplane will fly — given the known and persistent technical problems maintaining horizontal momentum using battery power. An aircraft must get into the air and then remain there. If it runs out of energy while it is in the air, it will not remain long in the air. The good news is that a fixed-wing aircraft can glide, but the bad news for our putative electric airplane is that the heavier it is, the less it can glide.

And this brings us to the rub.

A typical electric car battery weighs about 1,000 pounds. That is what it takes to move a small electric car like a Tesla 3 an advertised 263 miles. How far — how long — will an electric airplane go with batteries that will necessarily weigh much more in order to get all of that weight off the ground and into the air?...........To Read More....

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