Ask anyone who lives near an airport. They will tell you how loud the aircraft are. How the smell of Jet-A fuel hits them at odd hours of the day. How even the environment seems to sag around the vast expanse of tarmac and fumes. But what if electric aircraft could change all that?
It seems that every year we in the aviation industry get a little bit closer to ditching the yoke of the past. You can only turn dead dinosaurs into noise for so long before something gives. Don’t get me wrong, some of my best memories have been made in that particular venture, but it can’t last forever. The climate is changing at a rapid pace, superstorms threaten life and livelihood, and the consensus is that fossil fuels are to blame. The problem has been energy; there’s just so much to those dead dinosaurs.
Electric Aircraft and Energy Density
It takes a lot of power to get airborne. Even more to make it to the stars, as anyone who is working at the SpaceX Boca Chica launch facility can tell you. But even to take off and stay down in here in the atmosphere, it’s no small feat. For a long time, battery technology simply didn’t have the chutzpah to get off the ground. But critical advances in dry-cell battery technology, as well as the ability to manufacture at scale, means that one more barrier to electric aviation has fallen.
Small electric aircraft have been breaking records in recent months, but the scale needed for a true shift in the basis of aviation powerplants may be near.
With the maturation of battery technology, many of the giants of aerospace are beginning to adapt. Boeing recently paid $450 million to acquire Wisk, an eVTOL startup that is looking to revolutionize urban traffic and commuting. While this is a small start, autonomous and semi-autonomous air taxis may be the foot in the door for larger, and more lucrative, applications of electric aircraft technology.
Outside of the taxi space, other companies and startups are looking to start small and scale, as evidenced by the recent push towards light and private commuter craft like Alice. And Lockheed Martin is stepping into the mix by backing Electra in series A funding.
The Future is Now
I’ll still always cherish the memories I have of riding around the sky on a forty-foot tongue of fire. And the sound of afterburners near military bases is probably not going anywhere anytime soon. But I’m quite sure that most people will be happy to look up and see clear skies, and quiet planes, in their future.