The Anonymous Widower

Inside A $4 Million Electric Plane, The First Full-Size, All-Electric Passenger Aircraft In The World

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Business Insider.

Watch the video and think. Is it Alice in Wonderland?

I am looking forward to my first flight in an all-electric aircraft.

November 6, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Beeching Reversal – South Fylde Line Passing Loop

This is one of the Beeching Reversal projects that the Government and Network Rail are proposing to reverse some of the Beeching cuts.

The Project

This project is described on this page on the web site of the Fylde MP; Mark Menzies, which is entitled Improving The South Fylde Rail Line.

The page lists that these improvements are needed.

Track And Stations

These improvements are listed for track and stations.

The bid involves laying around three miles of track between Lytham and St Annes stations, the creation of a new rail platform at Ansdell and Fairhaven Station, the installation of signalling along the line, and potential platform changes at Preston Station. There is scope for improvements to St Annes and Lytham Stations, should Network Rail decide it would rather include those stations within the passing loop – but that would be decided further along the process.

Services

The objective is to be able to run two trains per hour (tph) between Preston and Blackpool South stations.

Trains

Better trains are needed.

It certainly looks like the Pacers have already gone.

The Route

I shall describe the current route in this section.

Blackpool South Station

The Google Map shows Blackpool South station.

Note.

  1. Entrance to the station is from Waterloo Road, which runs East-West across the map.
  2. There are a pair of bus stops by the station entrance.
  3. There is a lot of car parking close to the station.
  4. I suspect that the single platform can hold a modern eighty-metre four-car train.
  5. This seventy-year-old has no difficulty waking to the football ground or the Blackpool trams from the station.

With two tph and some updated facilities, this would be a very useful station.

I suspect there is even space to add a second platform in the future, if that were felt to be necessary.

Blackpool Pleasure Beach Station

This Google Map shows Blackpool Please Beach station and the nearby Pleasure Beach.

We shouldn’t underestimate the importance of this station. One beautiful late summer Saturday, I was going to see Ipswich play at Blackpool and out of curiosity I had explored the train to Colne station. In those days a decade ago, Colne and Blackpool South was one service and the train from Colne was full of families, by the time it got to Preston. A large proportion, left the train at the Pleasure Beach.

The conductor told me, that the crowds, I had witnessed weren’t untypical.

Squires Gate Station and Blackpool Airport

This Google Map shows Squires Gate station and the nearby Blackpool Airport.

Blackpool Airport after a troubled few years seems to be finding a niche market, with a few business, commercial, offshore and training flights.

But I believe that airports like Blackpool in the future can develop another large niche – electric aviation.

Getting to places like Ireland, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man and Wales by a nineteen-seat electric airliner will need the following.

  • As short a flight as possible.
  • Close to the coast would help.
  • Good public transport links. Blackpool Airport has both tram and train.
  • Space for aircraft to be parked, whilst charging.
  • Plentiful supplies of renewable electricity. The over-300 MW Burbo Bank Wind Farm is not far away in Liverpool Bay and it will only be joined by more and larger wind farms.
  • Frequent public transport.

Blackpool Airport could tick all these boxes, with a thick green marker.

Some example direct distances from Blackpool include

  • Aberdeen – 238 miles
  • Amsterdam Schipol – 340 miles
  • Belfast City – 128 miles
  • Cardiff – 165 miles
  • Dublin – 134 miles
  • Edinburgh – 150 miles
  • Exeter – 211 miles
  • Geneva – 661 miles
  • Glasgow – 155 miles
  • London Gatwick – 220 miles
  • London Heathrow – 192 miles
  • London Southend – 219 miles
  • Newcastle – 89 miles
  • Paris Orly – 422 miles
  • Isle of Man Ronaldsway – 68 miles
  • Southampton – 208 miles

These distances fit nicely with the range of the nine-seater Eviation Alice electric aircraft, which is predicted to be 620 miles.

St. Annes-on-the-Sea Station

This Google Map shows St. Annes-on-the-Sea station.

Note.

  1. Blackpool is to the North-West and Preston is to the South-East
  2. St. Annes-on-the-Sea is one of those convenient single-platform stations, where you just walk in-and-out on the level.
  3. The passing loop would start on the Preston side of the bridge.

There would need to be no major infrastructure work at the station, although I would expect the facilities could do with a makeover.

Ansdell And Fairhaven Station

In Should The Blackpool South Branch Be Electrified?, I said this about improvements to Ansdell and Fairhaven station.

Ansdell and Fairhaven station is nearest to the course at Royal Lytham.

    • The Open Championship is a very important event on the golfing calendar.
    • Other important golfing events are also held on the course
    • Royal Lytham and St.Annes, last held the Open in 2012 and 2001. So it might come back to Royal Lytham in the mid-2020s.

Ansdell and Fairhaven station used to have two platforms, as described in Wikipedia.

The station was set out as an island platform with tracks on both faces until the singling of the line in the 1980s. Trains now only use the southern face. A disabled access ramp now covers the northern part of the station.

So could a rebuild of the station do the following?

    • Restore two platforms on an island at the station.
    • Put in full disabled access.
    • Create a passing loop.
    • Longer platforms might be a good idea.

This Google Map shows the station.

Note.

    1. The disabled ramp winding away.
    2. The platform is probably about a hundred metres long.
    3. It would appear that there is space at the far end to extend the platform.

I suspect that an ambitious architect with vision, could design a station that met all objectives.

It could be the best Championship Golf Course railway station in the world.

Lytham Station

This Google Map shows Lytham station.

Lytham station will be the Eastern end of the loop and it is likely, that the single-track will change to double at the Western end of the station.

As with St. Annes-on-the-Sea station, I suspect that a good makeover, will be all that will be needed.

Moss Side Station

This Google Map shows Moss Side station.

The only problem here is the level crossing, so do Network Rail want to remove it?

Kirkham And Wesham Station

This Google Map shows Kirkham and Wesham station.

There are three platforms, which from bottom to top on the map are.

  • Platform 1 – Trains to Blackpool South
  • Platform 2 – Trains to Blackpool North
  • Platform 3 – Trains to Preston

All platforms seem to be being electrified in these  pictures. that I took during construction.

Note.

  1. It can’t be described as a station, built down to a small budget.
  2. In the captions to the pictures, I’ve numbered the platforms from left to right.
  3. The last picture looks down Platform 1 and there is an electrification gantry at the Preston end.

Could this comprehensive electrification be so that trains to Blackpool North can use both Platforms 1 and 2?

  • This would allow overtaking of say a local train by a London express.
  • Trains could also be turned back in Platform 1, before the end of its journey, if there was a problem.
  • The electrification is also substantial enough for the longest Class 390 trains.
  • It could even accommodate a classic compatible High Speed Two train.

So does the last point, mean that Blackpool North station is a possible High Speed Two destination? Provided, the platforms at Blackpool North station are long enough, I think it does!

This Google Map shows Kirkham West Junction, where trains to Blackpool North and Blackpool South stations diverge.

Note.

  1. The electrification gantries and their shadows can be seen.
  2. Preston is to the South-East and the route is fully-electrified.
  3. Blackpool North is to the North-West and the route is fully-electrified.
  4. Blackpool South is to the West. The double-track becomes single before Moss Side station.

This picture shows the route going off to Blackpool South.

I took the picture from a train going to Blackpool North station.

So why are wires being run along the first few hundred metres of the Blackpool South Branch?

The Timetable

Currently, trains take the following times to do these journey legs.

  • Run between Ansdell and Fairhaven and Blackpool South stations – 12 minutes
  • Turnback at Blackpool South station – 3 minutes
  • Run between Blackpool South and Ansdell and Fairhaven stations – 11 minutes

As the trains will be running every thirty minutes and the three legs total twenty-six minutes, that means there’s four minutes float.

So hopefully, it should be easily stainable, by an experienced rail timetable creator.

The Trains

I have remarked that I find the electrification at Kirkham & Wesham station, both comprehensive and slightly unusual.

Could The Electrification Have Been Designed For Battery Electric Trains To Blackpool South Station?

But there is one very plausible reason for the electrification layout – The Blackpool South Branch has been designed, so that services on the branch can be rum using battery trains.

  • The distance between Kirkham & Wesham and Blackpool South stations is just over eleven miles.
  • So for a round trip a range of perhaps twenty-five miles on battery power would suffice.
  • There would also be a need for a few minutes of hotel power, whilst waiting at Blackpool South station.

These power needs are well within the capabilities of the average battery train.

  • Trains could be charged on the nine minute run  between Preston and Kirkham & Wesham stations.
  • Changeover between electrification and battery power would take place in Kirkham & Wesham station.

An ideal train would surely be CAF’s four-car battery electric version of the Class 331 train, which I wrote about in Northern’s Battery Plans.

  • According to an article in the March 2020 Edition of Modern Railways, with the same name, these trains will be working between Manchester Airport and Windermere.
  • Class 331 trains without batteries will be running to and from Blackpool North station.
  • Four-car trains are probably the right size for the route.

There would also probably be no need for a charging station at Blackpool South station, if trains could leave Kirkham & Wesham station with a full battery.

Where Would The Trains Terminate In The East?

These would be the obvious choices.

  • Blackburn – Where there is a convenient bay platform.
  • Colne – Where they used to terminate!
  • Liverpool – Merseyrail has the trains and Liverpool has lots of punters and the imagination.
  • Preston – Where they do now!
  • Skipton – If the Skipton-Colne Link is built!

My money would be on Skipton, using a new Skipton-Colne Link, for the following reasons.

  • Politicians of all colours and roses are in favour.
  • Skipton has an electrified route to Leeds.
  • Skipton-Colne would be a valuable by-pass route during the building of Northern Powerhouse Rail.
  • Battery-powered trains would be ideal for Skipton-Colne.

Would A Battery Electric Train Be Feasible Between Blackpool South And Liverpool?

Consider.

  • An all-stations service would complement the fast service between Liverpool Lime Street and Blackpool North stations via St. Helens, Wigan North Western and Preston.
  • The service could either go between Liverpool and Preston via Ormskirk or Southport and a reinstated Burscough Chord.
  • The Ormskirk route is 15 miles of unelectrified line and the Southport route is just four miles further.
  • A service via Southport would need to reverse at Southport station.
  • The service would be run using dual-voltage Class 777 trains fitted with batteries.
  • 25 KVAC overhead electrification, is already  installed between Preston and Kirkham & Wesham stations,
  • Using existing electrification, trains would leave Kirkham & Wesham, Ormskirk, Preston and Southport stations with full batteries.
  • A coastal service between Blackpool and Liverpool would surely attract visitors.
  • Liverpool and Blackpool are the two biggest urban areas on the coast.
  • There are several golf courses on the route, including three courses that have held the Open; Royal Birkdale, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham & St. Annes.

It may be a bit fanciful. But.

  • Merseyrail will have the trains.
  • Liverpool has the potential passengers.
  • I believe the route could handle a two tph service.
  • In Reopen Midge Hall Station, I showed that it was possible to run a two tph service between Liverpool and Preston, with one tph via each of Ormskirk and Southport.

Liverpool also has bags of ambition and imagination.

Would A Battery Electric Train Handle Preston And Skipton?

I estimate that this route is forty-one miles, with a stiff rise from Rose Grove to Colne station.

So would a battery electric train be able to handle this distance?

Hitachi are talking 56 miles for their Regional Battery Train, so I suspect CAF would want and need to be competitive with a similar specification.

Perhaps the logical service would be to run between Leeds and Blackpool South.

  • The service would go via Preston, Blackburn, Burnley Central, Colne and Skipton.
  • Leeds and Skipton is electrified.
  • Preston and Kirkham & Wesham is electrified.
  • No extra chargers for trains would be needed.

The only new infrastructure needed would be the Skipton and Colne Link.

Electrification Between Preston And Blackburn

Consider.

  • In Colne – Skipton Reopening Moves Closer, I talked about the proposed Huncoat Rail Fright Terminal, that could be built North of Blackburn on the East Lancashire Line.
  • Blackburn is a major hub for passenger services.
  • An electrified Blackburn would allow Manchester and Clitheroe to be run by battery electric trains. Clitheroe is ten miles and Bolton is thirteen.
  • An electrified Blackburn would allow Blackburn and Manchester Victoria via the Todmorden Curve to be run by battery electric trains. The whole route is 39.5 miles.
  • It may be possible for battery electric trains to reach Leeds via Hebden Bridge, as it is only fifty miles away, which is within Hitachi’s range.
  • As the Blackburn area grows, there will be more pressure for a daily London service.
  • Some think, the Calderdale route should be electrified.
  • Preston and Blackburn stations are just twelves miles apart.
  • There is a multiple unit depot at Blackburn.
  • I also feel that battery electric trains fanning out from Blackburn, wouldn’t do the town’s image any harm.

For all these reasons, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a short stretch of electrification added between Preston and Blackburn.

Conclusion

I like this proposal and it could be a big asset to trains across the Pennines.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 27, 2020 Posted by | Energy, Energy Storage, Sport, Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Our Sustainability Journey

The title of this post, is the same as that of this press release on the Rolls-Royce web site.

It is sub-titled.

Paul Stein’s Thoughts On Sustainability And Electrification

Paul Stein is Rolls-Royce’s Chief Technology Officer, so what he says is important.

This press release was the source of the information behind Distributed Propulsion ‘Maybe The Only Means’ For Small Electric Flight Progress, which I wrote about Rolls-Royce’s beer keg-sized 2.5 MW generator.

This is the third paragraph.

We’ve taken great steps at Rolls-Royce with our three-pillar sustainability approach of developing the gas turbine to even greater efficiency, supporting the introduction of Sustainable Aviation Fuel and creating new, disruptive technologies such as electrification.

These are definitely, the three pillars of wisdom, when it comes to sustainable aviation.

E-Fan X

This paragraph is Paul Stein’s view of the E-Fan X.

One of the great endeavours in the latter category has been our E-Fan X programme in partnership with Airbus. From our side, this has involved creating a hybrid-electric power generation system at a scale never previously seen in our industry, comprised of an embedded AE2100 gas turbine driving a 2.5MW generator and 3000V power electronics and an electric propulsion unit. What has been particularly encouraging has been the amount of industry interest and support for this programme, and I know everyone at Rolls-Royce and Airbus has been truly grateful for that.

He states that the E-Fan  has now concluded, but a several valuable lessons have been learned.

2.5 MW Generator

He describes the generator like this.

Amongst the many great achievements from E-Fan X has been the generator – about the same size as a beer keg – but producing a staggering 2.5 MW. That’s enough power to supply 2,500 homes and fully represents the pioneering spirit on this project.

The press release discloses that the heart of this staggering generator is a Rolls-Royce AE2100 gas turbine, which powers the latest version of the legendary Lockheed Hercules; the C-130J Super Hercules.

Wikipedia gives this data for the AE2100D2 version of the engine.

  • Length – three metres
  • Diameter – 0.73 metres
  • Weight – 783 kilograms
  • Maximum Power Output – 3458 kW
  • Fuel Consumption – 0.25/kW/h

It looks like in the E-Fan X application, the engine is not at full power.

Use With Aviation Biofuel

Aviation Biofuel is described like this in the first sentences of its Wikipedia entry.

Aviation biofuel is a biofuel used for aircraft. It is considered by some to be the primary means by which the aviation industry can reduce its carbon footprint. After a multi-year technical review from aircraft makers, engine manufacturers and oil companies, biofuels were approved for commercial use in July 2011.

But it doesn’t necessarily mean growing large amounts of crops and converting it to the fuel. Altalto, who are backed by British Airways, Shell, Oxford University and the British Government are building a plant at Immingham to convert household and industrial waste into aviation biofuel.

I would expect that Rolls-Royce have made sure that the generator will work with aviation biofuel.

A Memory Of Emergency Power Generation

About twenty-five years, there was a major power failure after a thunder storm, where I lived in Suffolk and C and myself went to bed in the dark. We awoke to full power in the morning, after a good night’s sleep with no disturbance.

Imagine my surprise, when I let the dogs out to find parked in the field in front of the house, a very large articulated truck.

I was greeted by an engineer, who asked if I minded, his generator in my field. I seem to remember my response was to offer him a cup of tea, which he refused, as he said he had everything he needed in the truck.

It turned out that the main sub-station for the area had received a direct lightning strike and had been destroyed. So to supply power to all the nearby villages, as my farm was at the end of the supply, it was the most convenient place to plug in a transportable gas-turbine generator. The generator was in the field for about ten days and the whole operation impressed me with its professionalism.

But with this new 2.5 MW generator from Rolls-Royce, there would only need to be a small 3.5 tonne four-wheeled truck, to include the generator, fuel and living quarters for the engineer

We have made a lot of progress in twenty-five years.

A Modern Railway Locomotive

The power of this new Class 68 diesel locomotive, that was built in Spain, by Swiss company Stadler is a very healthy 2,800 kW.

Consider these facts about a Class 68 locomotive.

  • Thirty-four of these locomotives have been produced for the UK.
  • They are powered by a Caterpillar C175-16 engine, which weighs thirteen tonnes.
  • The transmission of these locomotives is electric, which means that the diesel engine drives a generator and the train is driven by electric traction motors.
  • The locomotive is equally at home hauling intermodal freight trains and passenger trains for Chiltern Railways or TransPennine Express.
  • According to Wikipedia, Class 68 locomotives comply with Stage III A of the European emission standards but not Stage III B. But that is much better than most of our noisy, smelly and polluting diesel locomotives.

Class 68 locomotives are members of the UKLight family of locomotives, which contains, these two other locomotives.

  • Already in service is the Class 88 locomotive, which is a bi-mode locomotive, which is capable of running on electrification or the on-board 0.7 MW diesel engine.
  • Under development is the Class 93 locomotive, which is a tri-mode 110 mph locomotive, which is capable of running on electrification, the on-board 0.7 MW diesel engine or battery power.

Stadler seem to be able to mix-and-match various power sources to provide versatile and highly-desirable locomotives.

I feel it would be feasible to design a railway locomotive with the following power sources.

  • 25 KVAC  overhead or 750 VDC third-rail electrification, providing up to perhaps the four MW of a Class 88 locomotive.
  • A Rolls-Royce gas-turbine generator running on aviation biofuel, providing up to perhaps three MW.
  • Batteries up to a weight of perhaps ten tonnes.

I am sure that it could handle many of the routes still run with diesel locomotives in the UK.

  • It would handle all locomotive-hauled passenger services and would be electric-only in stations.
  • It certainly solves the problem of hauling long intermodal freight trains between Felixstowe and the Midlands and the North.
  • To handle the heaviest stone and aggregate trains, it might need a more powerful generator, but I’m sure Rolls-Royce would oblige.

In Thoughts On A Battery/Electric Replacement For A Class 66 Locomotive, I gave a list of routes, that would need to be handled by a battery electric locomotive.

  • Didcot and Birmingham – Around two-and-a-half hours
  • Didcot and Coventry – Just under two hours
  • Felixstowe and Ipswich – Around an hour
  • Haughley Junction and Peterborough – Around two hours
  • Southampton and Reading – Around one-and-a-half hours
  • Werrington Junction and Doncaster via Lincoln – Around two hours
  • Werrington Junction and Nuneaton – Just under two hours

Will Rolls-Royce’s generator be able to supply 2.5 MW for up to four hours?

This would need two-and-a-half tonnes of aviation biofuel, which would be around 3,200 litres, which could be carried in the 5,000 litre tank of a Class 68 locomotive.

It certainly seems feasible to replace diesel locomotives with gas-turbine locomotives running on aviation biofuel, to reduce net carbon emissions and reduce noise and pollution.

But this is not just a UK problem and many countries, who rely on diesel-hauled rail freight, would look seriously at such a locomotive.

Underfloor Mounting In Passenger Trains

These pictures show the space underneath a Hitachi Class 800 train.

The red cap visible in some pictures is the filler for the oil or diesel for the MTU 12V 1600 R 80L diesel engine used to power the trains away from electrification.

This diesel engine has this specification.

  • It produces 560 kW of power.
  • It weighs around six tonnes.
  • Its is about 4 x 2.5 x 1 metres in size.

The diesel engine produces about a fifth of the power as the gas-turbine generator, which is also smaller and very much lighter in weight.

It should also be noted, that a nine-car Class 800 train has five of these MTU diesel engines.

At a first glance, it would appear Hitachi could find one of Rolls-Royce’s gas-turbine generators very useful.

  • It might even enable self-powered high speed trains to run on lines without electrification at speeds well in excess of 140 mph.
  • I can certainly see, High Speed Two’s classic-compatible trains having one or possibly two of these generators, so they can extend services on lines without electrification.

We shouldn’t forget that one version of British Rail’s Advanced Passenger Train was to be gas-turbine powered.

A Class 43 Diesel Power-Car

Rolls-Royce would need a test-bed for a trial rail application of their 2.5 MW generator and there is probably no better trial vehicle, than one of the numerous Class 43 power-cars waiting to be scrapped. They could probably obtain a complete InterCity 125, if they wanted one for a realistic weight, test equipment and a second power-car for comparison and rescue.

But seriously, if we are going to remove diesel from UK railways by 2040, a solution needs to be found for the GWR Castles, ScotRail’s Inter7Citys and NetworkRail’s New Measurement Train.

One of the great advantages of these staggering (Rolls-Royce’s Chief Technology Officer’s word, not mine!) generators is that they are controlled by Full Authority Digital Engine Control or FADEC.

FADEC will give the pilots in a Hercules or other aircraft, all the precise control they need and I doubt Rolls-Royce will leave FADEC out of their gas turbine generator, as it would give the operator or driver extremely precise control.

A driver of a GWR Castle equipped with two gas-turbine power-cars, would be able to do the following.

  • Adjust the power to the load and terrain, with much more accuracy, than at present.
  • Shut the engines down and start them quickly, when passing through sensitive areas.
  • Cut carbon-dioxide emissions, by simply using a minimum amount of fuel.

I would put a battery in the back of the Class 43, to provide hotel power for the passenger coaches.

Running current MTU engines in the Class 43s, on biodiesel is surely a possibility, but that not an elegant engineering solution. It also doesn’t cut carbon emissions.

As there are still over a hundred Class 43s in service, it could even be a substantial order.

It should also be noted, that more-efficient and less-polluting MTU engines were fitted in Class 43s from 2005, so as MTU is now part of Rolls-Royce, I suspect that Rolls-Royce have access to all the drawings and engineers notes, if not the engineers themselves

But it would be more about publicity for future sales around the world, with headlines like.

Iconic UK Diesel Passenger Trains To Receive Green Roll-Royce Jet Power!

COVID-19 has given Rolls-Royce’s aviation business a real hammering, so perhaps they can open up a new revenue stream by replacing the engines of diesel locomotives,

A Class 55 Locomotive

Why Not?

A Class 55 locomotive is diesel electric and there are thousands of diesel locomotives in the world, built to similar basic designs, that need a more-efficient and more environmentally-friendly replacement for a dirty, smelly, noisy and polluting diesel power-plant.

Marine Applications

The Wikipedia entry for the Cat C175, says this.

The Cat C175 is often used in locomotives and passenger-class ships.

I suspect there will be marine applications for the gas-turbine generator.

Conclusion

I’m very certain that Rolls-Royce’s pocket power station has a big future.

Who said that dynamite comes in small parcels?

 

 

July 19, 2020 Posted by | Energy, Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Distributed Propulsion ‘Maybe The Only Means’ For Small Electric Flight Progress

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on the Institute of Mechanical Engineers web site.

If you want to fly again, then this article offers pointers to how you might do it.

The E-Fan X Airliner

It gives this latest information on the E-Fa X airliner being tested by Rolls-Royce and Airbus.

Amid the strain of the Covid-19 pandemic, Rolls-Royce and Airbus cancelled flight tests of their E-Fan X airliner, a promising project that could have provided vital data on issues such as thrust management and electric systems at altitude.

Does that mean cancelled or scrapped?

2.5 MW From A Beer Keg-Sized Generator

This paragraph could be important.

“Among the many great achievements from E-Fan X has been the generator – about the same size as a beer keg – but producing a staggering 2.5MW,” said Vittadini’s Rolls-Royce counterpart Paul Stein. “That’s enough power to supply 2,500 homes and fully represents the pioneering spirit on this project.”

This picture shows a Class 66 locomotive.

The locomotive has a 2,460 kW diesel engine and an electric transmission.

I just wonder, if Rolls Royce’s high-powered small generator could replace the large, noisy and smelly diesel engines in these locomotives.

If the technology worked there are 455 of the noisy locomotives.

Snowballing Improvements

The article has a section with this title and it talks about how electric power may lead to other advantages.

Conclusion

Electric aircraft are more promising, than many think!

 

July 17, 2020 Posted by | Energy, Transport | , , , , | 1 Comment

Can A Green Revolution Really Save Britain’s Crisis-Stricken Aerospace Industry?

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on the Telegraph.

This is the sub-title.

The Prime Minister has set a challenging target of green flights within a generation, but is it a sustainable plan?

I have read the whole article, which is mainly about Velocys and their project at Immingham to create aviation biofuel from household rubbish.

They say the main problem is scaling up the process to get enough jet fuel. When I was working at ICI in the early 1970s, modelling chemical processes, scale-up always loomed-large as a problem.

Nothing changes!

I think we’ll get to our carbon-neutral objective, for aviation, but it will be a mixture of things.

  • Aviation biofuel.
  • All-electric airports.
  • Efficient aerodynamics and engines.
  • Electric short-haul aircraft.
  • Rail substitution for short flights.

Traditional aerospace must reform itself or die!

As to Velocys, they must solve their scaleup problem, so that all suitable household and industrial rubbish ends up doing something more useful, than beinmg incinerated or nuried in landfill.

July 5, 2020 Posted by | Energy, Transport | , , , , , | 1 Comment

James Bond Stunt Pilot’s Electrifying Flight

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article in The Times.

This is the introductory paragraph.

A James Bond stunt pilot has completed the first electric-powered flights from a UK airport in an aircraft capable of carrying passengers.

The aircraft was a modified Piper Malibu.

  • They can carry a pilot and five passengers.
  • They are single-engined.
  • Some are powered by piston engines and some by turboprops.
  • Over 1,200 of different variants have been produced and the aircraft is still in production.

Tragicilly, the footballer; Emiliano Sala, died in a Piper Malibu.

Zeroavia, the company, who seem to be behind this flight, in my view seem to be on the right track. The Zeroavia Hyflyer, has its own section in the Wikipedia entry for the Piper Malibu. This is the first sentence.

ZeroAvia, a Cranfield University partner, is a U.S./UK startup developing a Hydrogen fuel cell power train targeting to halve a turbine operating costs.

Roei Ganzarsky, who is CEO of magniX, who are a company, who make efficient electric motors for aviation, appears to very much believe that electric aircraft will be cheaper to run.

June 23, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , | 5 Comments

Honeywell Launches Lightweight Cooling System For Electric Aircraft

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on Flight Global.

This is the introductory paragraph.

Honeywell Aerospace has unveiled a lightweight, low-maintenance cooling system for developers of urban air mobility (UAM) and electric aircraft, and has named the Eviation Alice as launch platform for the energy-efficient feature.

I particularly like the comment of Eviation’s founder Omer Bay-Yohay’s comment of “Every ounce counts!”.

But although weight is important in an electric aircraft, like the Eviation Alice, it is also important in other forms of transport from a family runabout to a high-speed train. Especially, if the vehicle is powered by batteries.

It should also be noted, that Honeywell are setting up a specialist business unit to provide equipment for and help the builders of electric aircraft.

Conclusion

Other companies will follow Honeywell’s lead and produce lightweight equipment for the automotive and rail industries.

June 21, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

MagniX Electric Aircraft Engines Take To The Skies

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on pv magazine Australia.

This is the introductory paragraph.

No emissions, low-cost regional flights with just eight other sanitised folk and a disinfected pilot… Yes, Covid-19 is warping our view of the future, but the successful electrically powered maiden flight last week of a Cessna Caravan aircraft, offers the potential for new models of travel supporting wider distribution of commerce in Australia.

The article goes on to discuss Roei Ganzarski’s vision of what zero-emission electrically-powered aviation could do.

Economics

This is a paragraph from the article.

Its successful half-hour, 160km test flight used less than US$6 worth of electricity, compared to a Cessna Caravan powered by conventional combustion engine which would have sucked up some US$300-400 worth of fuel. And Ganzarski points out that, as in electric vehicles, the motor requires very little maintenance compared to its gas-guzzling cousins.

That is impressive.

The Market

This is a sentence from the article.

MagniX says 45% of all airline flights cover less than 800 km, while 5% of flights are sub-160 km, and it’s likely that commercial electric flights powered by magniX motors will first be offered in the UK, US or Europe.

I didn’t believe that the proportion of short flights was so high.

I could see all flights below 160 km (100 miles) will be flown by electric aircraft and a large proportion of those below (800 km (500 miles) going in the same direction.

The Vision

This is a paragraph from the article.

You could have phenomenal factories or businesses in these places that can’t currently sell their goods or can’t receive goods because the 4.5 to 6-hour truck drive that happens maybe once a week is just operatively prohibitive. If you could have an aircraft do that in 20, 40, 60 minutes and do it with zero emissions at a really low cost, and suddenly you’re really connecting these communities…

As it was given in quotes, I would assume it was spoken by Roei Ganzarski.

What would that do for high-quality agricultural products and seafood produced on remote islands.

This statement is in the Wikipedia entry for Loganair.

Loganair is planning to introduce electric aircraft to the Orkney Islands by 2021 due to the short distance between the islands that would make such flights possible.

They seem to be following a parallel path, with their involvement in Project Fresson. But as that development of a Britten-Norman Islander, is not planned to fly until 2022, could Loganair be a possible launch customer for an electric Cessna Caravan?

  • Loganair have the ideal short routes.
  • The electric Caravan won’t be the most difficult aircraft to certify for flying with a Supplemental Type Certificate, as several other Caravan variants with a change of powerplant, are flown this way.
  • The environmental profile fits some of Loganair’s routes in Scotland.
  • According to Roei Ganzarski, the economics would be ideal for Loganair’s routes.
  • Roei Ganzarski gave a long sales promotion-style interview on the BBC. Who was he targetting?

But the biggest factor is that Roei Ganzarski appears to be a showman in the mould of those great Victorian engineer/entrepreneurs, who defined and built much of the world we admire. What better stage is there to showcase his electric aircraft, but the remote airports served by Loganair?

The Specification

The Wikipedia entry for the Cessna Caravan now has s section for the electric Caravan, where this is said.

The eCaravan is an electric aircraft modification of the 208B built by AeroTEC and magniX powered by a 750 hp (560 kW) motor and a 1 t (2,200 lb), 750V lithium-ion battery. Its 30 min first flight happened from Grant County International Airport in Moses Lake, Washington, on May 28, 2020, consuming $6 worth of electricity, needing 30-40 min of charging. The Magni500-powered variant can fly 100 mi (160 km) with 4-5 passengers while keeping reserve power, and aims for a certification by the end of 2021, hoping to operate 100-mile flights with a full load of nine passengers with better batteries.

The pv magazine Australia article says the flight was for 160 km (100 miles), so that would cover a lot of short routes.

Suppose with reserves, that the plane should have a one hour endurance. my experience of piloting aircraft leads me to estimate that the average power setting would be less than fifty percent of full power for a real flight, as cruise and descent, need a lot less power than climb.

This would mean, that the aircraft needs to take-off with around 280 kWh of fuel, which would be enough to power the motor at half-power for an hour.

In Sparking A Revolution, I comment on an article of the same name in Issue 898 of Rail Magazine, which talks about Hitachi’s plans for battery-electric trains.

This is an insert in the Rail Magazine article, which will apply to all applications with traction batteries. Including aviation!

This is said.

The costs of batteries are expected to halve in the next five years, before dropping further again by 2030.

Hitachi cites research by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) which expects costs to fall from £135/kWh at the pack level today to £67/kWh in 2025 and £47/kWh in 2030.

United Kingdom Research and Innovation (UKRI)  is also predicting that battery energy density will double in the next 15 years, from 700 Wh/l to 1,400 Wh/l in 2035, while power density (fast charging) is likely to increase four times in the same period from 3 kW/kg now to 12 kW/kg in 2035.

This page on the Clean Energy institute at the University of Washington is entitled Lithium-Ion Battery.

This is a sentence from the page.

Compared to the other high-quality rechargeable battery technologies (nickel-cadmium or nickel-metal-hydride), Li-ion batteries have a number of advantages. They have one of the highest energy densities of any battery technology today (100-265 Wh/kg or 250-670 Wh/L).

The highest figure of 670 Wh/l would appear to fit the Hitachi extract, where 700 Wh/l is quoted.

If I use the Wh/kg figure, it would appear that a one tonne battery could hold between 100 kWh and 265 kWh.

I suspect, that the higher figure would be enough to perform the 160 km. test flight, which I estimated could need 280 kWh.

But battery development in the next few years will be on the side of Roei Ganzarski’s vision.

Conclusion

Electric aircraft are not a politically correct mad idea, but a serious proposition to make the world a better place.

The article is a must-read!

June 1, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

MagniX and AeroTEC Put All-Electric Cessna Airplane Into The Air For First Time

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on GeekWire.

This is the introductory paragraph.

An all-electric version of one of the world’s best-known small utility airplanes hummed through its first flight today at Moses Lake in central Washington state.

This is a picture of another Cessna Caravan, that I took, as I boarded it in Kenya for a flight to the Maasai Mara.

 

The aircraft are very much a Ford Transit or Mercedes  Vito of the skies.

  • 2,600 have been built.
  • It is still in production.
  • The passenger version can carry nine passengers.
  • Total flight hours are over twenty million.
  • FedEx operates 239 of the type.

It must surely, be an ideal aircraft to convert to electric power.

This is a video of the first flight on YouTube.

The guy behind the project;Roei Ganzarski has just given a very optimistic interview on BBC Breakfast.

He emphasised the various environmental and financial advantages of the aircraft and if you can catch it on the iPlayer, it outlines a possible future for aviation.

I can see electric Cessna Caravans flying around the UK within the next couple of years.

Designing And Building An Electric Aircraft

Three of the designs for commercial electric aircraft under development are conversions of existing designs.

This must make certification of the aircraft simpler, as you’ve just replaced one type of engine with a battery and electric motor of similar size.

The difficult parts of the design; the aerodynamics and structure are probably almost unchanged.

As MagniX are involved in the first two of these projects, I would suspect that they have come up with an electric motor, that fits what is needed for aviation very well.

But then electric motor design is changing, probably driven by the needs of electric transport from bicycles through cars and vans to buses, planes, ships, trains and trucks.

It should also be noted, that the Beaver, Caravan and Islander are all simple aircraft, with a long history of successful operation and a vast knowledge base amongst pilots, engineers and operators of how to use these aircraft safely and in a financially viable way.

Will we see other aircraft conversions from to electric power in the next few years?

This page on Flying Magazine discusses conversion of Cessna 172 to electric power.

 

May 29, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Watch First Electric Caravan Fly

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on AOPA.

As AOPA is the Aircraft Owners And Pilots Association, the caravan is a Cessna C208B Grand Caravan, which has been converted to electric power.

I have flown in a Cessna Caravan in Kenya, where it took me from Nairobi Airport to the Maasai Mara.

It is a typical workhorse all over the world carrying up to nine or thirteen passengers or freight.

  • They have a single turboprop engine.
  • The undercarriage is fixed and very sturdy.
  • Around 2,600 had been built by 2017.
  • It is used by a variety of operators.

I would certainly be happy to fly in one at any time, unlike some aircraft I could mention.

This paragraph from the article details how the maker of the electric motor;magniX is involved in electric flight.

The Grand Caravan is to be the largest, but not the first commercial aircraft magniX has converted to fly with 100 percent electric power. Roei Ganzarski, CEO of magniX, wrote in an email exchange that the de Havilland DHC–2 Beaver first flown in December continues its test flight program in Canada. Harbour Air, a short-haul air carrier with a fleet of seaplanes, is working with magniX to convert its fleet to all-electric power, and the same 750-hp electric motor that will power the upcoming Grand Caravan flight has been performing well in test flights over British Columbia.

Ganzarski is quoted as saying he is pleased with results to date.

The aircraft is lined up to make its first flight on May 28th, which hopefully will be shown on the Internet.

My flight in Kenya was only about half-an-hour and despite the Caravan having a range of nearly 2,000 kilometres, I suspect that many flights in the aircraft are of similar duration.

A Quick Battery Size Estimate

  • 750 hp is 560 kW.
  • So a half-hour flight on full power will use 280 kWh plus whatever is needed for aircraft systems like avionics, heating and air conditioning.
  • The Eviation Alice electric aircraft seats nine passengers and has a 900 kWh battery according to Wikipedia.

I  would suspect a 900 kWh battery should allow the Electric Caravan to do two half-hour trips.

The Future Of Electric Aviation

It is interesting to note, that four of the projects in designing and building a viable electric aircraft are in this nine-seater segment.

Note.

  • All except Eviation Alice, are conversions of proven high-wing aircraft with a fixed undercarriage.
  • Moderately large fleets available for conversion. – Beaver (1,600 plus built), Caravan (2,600) and Islander (700)
  • Conversion only needs a Supplemental Type Certificate, rather than full certification.
  • The DHC-2 Beaver prototype first flew on the day I was born, so it can’t be all bad.

A detailed insight into the reasons and the economics of converting an existing fleet of aircraft are given in a sub-section called Development in the Wikipedia entry for Project Fresson.

  • Scottish Airline Loganair appears to be the launch airline and will use the plane for their short flights around the Orkneys.
  • Several companies are involved in the development.
  • First flight is aimed for 2021.
  • Conversion kits could be available in 2022-2023.
  • It is hoped that operators would get a return on their money for the kit in 2-3 years.

Once they get the design right, there is talk of a nineteen-seat electric airliner.

I can see hundreds of converted electric Caravans and Islanders flying short routes by 2030.

 

May 21, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | Leave a comment