The Anonymous Widower

France’s Aura Aero Unveils 19-Seat Electric Aircraft Development Plan

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

This is the introductory paragraph.

French aerospace firm Aura Aero is intending to develop a 19-seat electric-powered regional aircraft, as it looks to certify its two-seat Integral R light single.

For a better picture and more information, look at this article in The Times, which is entitled French Electric Airliner Will Take To The Skies In Five Years.

Some clues as to the specification from the article and around the web.

  • Nineteen seats.
  • Maiden flight by 2024 and in service entry in 2026.
  • It has six electric engines.
  • Three hundred mile range.
  • Hybrid power will be used to extend the range to 500 miles.
  • A freighter version will be available.

This paragraph is from The Times article.

This week the company began production of a new two-seater plane made of carbon-wood, a lightweight composite material. It is confident that it can meet its ambitious timetable in a race to beat rivals in Europe, the US and Israel and overcome the formidable weight and range barriers to commercial electric passenger flight.

A carbon-wood airframe hints at possibly the world’s most successful composite aircraft; the wooden De Havilland Mosquito, which was light, strong and very fast.

  • In fact, it was so fast, one aircraft could bomb Germany twice in one night, with two crews and a refuelling and a rearming in between.
  • It could also carry a bomb load not far short of that of a Boeing B17 Flying Fortress.

Sadly, we didn’t realise the full potential of this aircraft in World War II, but if we had, fewer aircrew and civilians on the ground would have died, as waves of Mosquitos could have knocked out important targets with precision and surprise. I wrote about one of their precision raids in The Kunstzaal Kleizkamp Raid.

Conclusion

I think the mathematics and regulations point to an aircraft with the following specification, being the right plane to develop.

  • Nineteen seats
  • 300 mile range
  • Versatile interior
  • Sustainable aviation fuel range extender

It appears that both the Aura Aero Era and the Faradair BEHA  are aimed at this market, with the Cessna eCaravan and the Eviation Alice aimed at a smaller number of passengers.

Note.

  1. Sustainable aviation fuel doesn’t need any specialist handling and can be delivered to the aircraft in a normal bowser.
  2. I suspect that one electric aircraft manufacturer or electric vehicle support company will develop a charging system, for the batteries, that is based on a vehicle that just plugs into the aircraft during loading.

I think this segment of the aviation market could be a big one and I wouldn’t be surprised to see other companies bringing forward 19 seat/300 miles aircraft.

Although, the market could be a bit squashed from the top. Airbus have proposed a ZEROe Turboprop, which I wrote about in ZEROe – Towards The World’s First Zero-Emission Commercial Aircraft.

This would be capable of carrying up to a hundred passengers over a thousand nautical miles, with no emissions except water.

 

March 27, 2021 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Rolls-Royce And Tecnam Join Forces With Widerøe To Deliver An All-Electric Passenger Aircraft Ready For Service In 2026

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

This is the first paragraph.

Rolls-Royce and airframer Tecnam are joining forces with Widerøe – the largest regional airline in Scandinavia, to deliver an all-electric passenger aircraft for the commuter market, ready for revenue service in 2026. The project expands on the successful research programme between Rolls-Royce and Widerøe on sustainable aviation and the existing partnership between Rolls-Royce and Tecnam on powering the all-electric P-Volt aircraft.

This picture from Rolls-Royce shows the proposed aircraft.

The P-Volt aircraft is based on the Tecnam P2012 Traveller.

The specification of this aircraft is as follows.

  • Crew – 1 or 2
  • Capacity – 9 passengers
  • Powerplant – 2 x 280 jW piston engines.
  • Cruise speed – 200 mph
  • Range – 1090 miles
  • Service ceiling – 19,500 ft.

The aim is to have an aircraft in service by 2026.

Use By Widerøe

This paragraph from the press release, outlines Widerøe‘s planned use of the aircraft.

The collaboration offers an opportunity to develop an exciting solution to the commuter aircraft market. Before the pandemic, Widerøe offered around 400 flights per day using a network of 44 airports, where 74% of the flights have distances less than 275 km. The shortest flight durations are between seven and fifteen minutes. Developing all-electric aircraft will enable people to be connected in a sustainable way and will fulfill Wideroe’s ambition to make its first all-electric flight by 2026. The all-electric P-Volt aircraft, which is based on the 11-seat Tecnam P2012 Traveller aircraft is ideal for the short take-off and landing as well as for routes in the North and the West Coast of Norway.

Conclusion

There are now five electric or low-carbon aircraft in the sub-nineteen passenger segment.

Note.

  1. The Slice and the Faradair are new designs.
  2. The Faradair is hybrid and all the others are fully electric.
  3. The Faradair can carry eighteen passengers and all the others are smaller.
  4. I suspect there are others under development.

Conclusion

The Tecnam P-Volt must have a high chance of success.

  • It’s designed for a purpose in a particular airline.
  • The Widerøe model would apply to large number of small feeder and commuter airlines.
  • Rolls-Royce are well-respected in aviation.
  • An existing airframe is being used, which shortens certification.
  • Norway is not short of a few bob.
  • Cape Air have ordered 93 of the piston engined variant.

I will look forward to flying this aircraft.

 

March 17, 2021 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Is This The New Look For Eviation’s Alice?

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

Eviation Alice certainly looks different in their picture.

It (or is it she?) is shown with a T-tail, two engines and a different undercarriage.

The article says the aircraft could fly this year, and be certified in 2023.

January 21, 2021 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Faradair’s BEHA Hybrid Aircraft Boosted By Partnerships

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

This is the introductory paragraph.

Faradair, the UK company developing a hybrid-electric short takeoff and landing aircraft for applications including regional airline service, on Thursday announced four new risk-sharing partners. Honeywell, MagniX, Cambridge Consultants, and Nova Systems, have all signed up to contribute to the development of the Bio Electric Hybrid Aircraft (BEHA), which is expected to enter service in 2026.

Some points from the article.

  • The aircraft is bio-electric as it is powered by a small gas-turbine generator, which drives a contra-rotating ducted fan, through a pair of electric-motors.
  • It has a quick-change interior, that can handle 18 passengers or five tonnes of cargo.
  • Range is given as 1,150 miles, with a service ceiling of 14,000 feet and a speed of up to 230 mph.

The Faradair web site gives other useful data.

  • Wingspan is 57 ft.
  • Length is 48 ft. 2 in.

The article also discloses an innovative way of marketing the aircraft, which looks to me, like a modern update to how the company I helped found; Metier Management Systems, leased Artemis project management computer systems, several decades ago.

Comparison With Eviation Alice

I must compare the Faradair BEMHA with the Eviation Alice.

The Alice can carry nine passengers.

  • It cruises at 276 mph.
  • Range is 620 miles
  • Service ceiling is 12,500 ft.
  • Wingspan is 52 ft. 11 in.
  • Length is 43.3 ft.

The Alice would appear to be slightly smaller, with a shorter range.

  • If you look at the pictures of the two aircraft on the Faradair and Eviation Alice web sites, you will see that they are radical designs.
  • The Eviation Alice is fully electric, whereas the Faradair BEHA has a hybrid engine based on a small gas turbine running on aviation biofuel.
  • Both aircraft use MagniX electric motors.
  • Both aircraft fit into defined segments of the aviation market.

I very much believe that we’ll be seeing more unusual zero-carbon and carbon-neutral aircraft designs in the next few years.

A few thoughts.

Battery-Electric or Gas Turbine?

The Eviation Alice is solely powered by a battery, whereas the Faradair BMHA uses a hybrid engine based on a small gas turbine running on aviation biofuel.

Airbus built an experimental aircraft called the Airbus E-Fan X. This aircraft was to have used a gas-turbine and a battery. The aircraft was cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

So Faradair seem to be going a similar route to Airbus.

The AINonline article says this about Honeywell’s involvement.

Honeywell will support Faradair in producing a turbogenerator based on its gas turbine and generator technologies that is able to run on sustainable aviation fuel. The U.S. aerospace group will also contribute to other systems for BEHA, including avionics and flight controls.

According to Wikipedia, Honeywell certainly have lots of experience of small gas-turbine engines. They also make large numbers of auxiliary power units for aircraft.

The big disadvantage of the battery approach, is surely the weight of the battery, which needs to be large to have enough energy for the flight.

  • But electric power also restricts the aircraft to airports with recharging facilities. This must reduce the flexibility of the aircraft.
  • And also what happens after a diversion caused by weather, a passenger becoming unwell or some other circumstance, where the aircraft ends up at an airport with no handling for electric aircraft?

But with an aircraft that only needs sustainable aviation fuel, it can be filled up from a bowser used for small airliners and business jets.

If you want to be zero-carbon perhaps it would be better to fuel the gas-turbine with hydrogen.

Airbus seem to have come to that conclusion with their future plans, that I wrote about in ZEROe – Towards The World’s First Zero-Emission Commercial Aircraft.

I have a feeling that both Airbus and Faradair have shown, that to get enough range and for convenience, sustainable aviation fuel or hydrogen is better.

Nine Or Eighteen Seat?

Regulation has made nine- and nineteen-seats into niche markets and each developer is concentrating on a particular market.

  • An airline that uses small airliners like Loganair, actually has aircraft in both groups.
  • I suspect other airlines have similar mixed fleets.
  • Cape Air, who are the lead customer for the Alice, only fly nine-seat aircraft.

The customer has a choice depending on the size of aircraft he needs.

Short Take-Off And Landing Capability

I have flown as a passenger several times in small airliners with a capacity of up to nineteen seats.

  • Usually, they have been in a Cessna Caravan or Britten Normand Islander.
  • In a couple of cases, the trip has involved a take-off or landing on a short or grass runway.
  • Additionally, I have over a thousand hours in command of a Cessna 340, where I used a lot of short runways.

I would feel that as a lot of small airports have short runways, that a short take-off and landing capability would be a necessity for a small airliner.

Versatility

This Faradair press release is dated December 17th, 2020.

This paragraph details the aircrafts versatility.

The ambition is to deliver an initial portfolio of 300 Faradair®-owned BEHAs between 2026-2030, in the largest proof of concept air mobility programme ever created. Of these, 150 aircraft will be built in firefighting configuration, 75 as quick change (QC, passenger to cargo) aircraft, deployed at general  aviation airfields globally, and 50 as pure freighters. The final 25 aircraft will be demonstrated in non-civilian government roles, including logistics, border and fisheries patrol, and drug interdiction.

Note.

I particularly like the quick-change variant.

As 125 aircraft can be used for freighters, has one of the large parcel carriers expressed an interest?

I must admit, I’m surprised that 150 aircraft will be needed in a firefighting configuration.

To be continued…

 

 

December 18, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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

Birmingham Airport Connectivity

On the Midlands Connect web site, they have a page, which is entitled Birmingham Airport Connectivity.

This is the introductory paragraph.

By using capacity released by HS2 and investing in new track south of Birmingham Airport, we can improve connections from the south of England, East Midlands, Yorkshire and the North East.

The page contains this helpful map.

It looks like Midlands Connect are thinking about improving the Reading and Newcastle service.

Points made on the page and related articles, like this one on Rail News  include.

  • Birmingham Airport has plans to increase passenger numbers to 18 million by 2033.
  • Coventry and Leamington Spa via Kenilworth will be double-tracked.
  • High Speed Two will release capacity in the area.
  • It will open up rail capacity between Birmingham and Solihull.
  • There will be a new service between Birmingham Moor Street and Oxford via Solihull and Warwick Parkway.
  • It will improve local connections to Birmingham Airport.
  • Birmingham and Reading services will be increased to two trains per hour (tph)
  • The Government is being asked to chip in £20 million.

These are my thoughts.

Birmingham Airport

Birmingham Airport can become a true Heart of England Airport.

I feel that the future of aviation will be very different to the past.

  • COVID-19 and the future pandemics, that we will endure from the East and the Americas, will mean that flying will be a very different experience with hygiene and social distancing to the fore.
  • Smaller aircraft, for flights up to 500 miles, will be odd-looking zero-carbon machines with exotic power systems.
  • Larger aircraft will be energy efficient planes powered by aviation biofuels produced from household and industrial waste, and biomass.
  • Boeing 747s and Airbus A380s will only be talked about in tales from older people to the young.
  • Airports will be important rail hubs to more than just the local area.

Wikipedia also says this about expansion of Birmingham Airport.

Plans for a second runway (a third when demand requires) on the other side of the M42 and a new terminal complex and business park have been published, and they could help to create around 250,000 jobs. It has been estimated that if these plans went ahead, the airport could handle around 70,000,000 passengers annually, and around 500,000 aircraft movements.

This Google Map shows the Airport.

Note the M42 motorway passing North-South to the East of the Airport.

Could Birmingham Airport develop towards Birmingham Interchange and High Speed Two?

It is worth looking at the distance to other airports.

  • Aberdeen – 328 miles
  • Amsterdam – 280 miles
  • Dublin – 199 miles
  • Frankfurt – 478 miles
  • Geneva – 558 miles
  • Paris – 304 miles

All could be within range of an electric aircraft like the under-development Eviation Alice.

I believe that large airports will develop low-noise zero-carbon secondary runways.

Birmingham Airport is well-situated to take advantage.

Adding A Second Track Between Leamington Spa And Coventry

This section of track is about ten miles long, with probably under half only single-track.

This Google Map shows the single-track through the new Kenilworth station.

And these are pictures I took soon after the station opened.

It is certainly one of the best of the current crop of new small stations.

I don’t think that adding a second track will be the most challenging of projects.

It should be noted that the Leamington Spa and Nuneaton service could be a candidate for a battery electric train.

  • The route is twenty miles long
  • Nuneaton and Coventry stations are fully electrified.
  • There might be possibilities to extend this service at either or both ends.
  • Nuneaton and Leicester are nineteen miles apart and a new Nuneaton Parkway station is proposed for the route. I wrote about this station in New Railway Station Between Hinckley And Nuneaton Receives Backing.
  • Leamington Spa and Stratford-upon-Avon are fifteen miles apart and would need a reverse at Leamington Spa.

A battery electric train might give a faster and more passenger-friendly service, if the passenger numbers and forecasts would support an extended service.

A Birmingham Moor Street And Oxford Service

This Google Map shows Birmingham Moor Street station.

Note.

  1. The two Northern through platforms on the Snow Hill Lines, that continue under Birmingham to Birmingham Snow Hill station.
  2. At least two, but possibly three bay platforms, that can take Chiltern Railway’s longest trains.
  3. There is more space for possibly another two bay platforms to be reinstated or built.

Birmingham Moor Street station will also be a short walk from High Speed Two’s Birmingham Curzon Street station.

This Google Map shows Oxford station.

Note.

  1. Birmingham Moor Street station is to the North via Banbury and Warwick Parkway stations.
  2. The two long through platforms capable of taking a nine-car train.
  3. There are two bay platforms to the East of the two through platforms, at the Northern end of the station.
  4. The bay platforms handle Chiltern’s services from London Marylebone and could also handle the proposed service to Birmingham Moor Street.

Consider this about the proposed Birmingham Moor Street and Oxford service.

  • The service could stop at Solihull, Warwick Parkway, Warwick, Leamington Spar and Banbury, as was thought necessary.
  • I estimate that Birmingham Moor Street and Oxford are 66 miles apart and that a 100 mph train would take around 66 minutes.
  • Birmingham Moor Street and Banbury are 43 miles apart.
  • Oxford and Banbury are 23 miles apart.

With these timings and a few minutes to reverse at each end of the route, I would estimate that a 2.5 hour round trip would be possible.

But, I also think, that with charging facilities or short lengths of electrification at Birmingham Moor Street, Banbury and Oxford stations, this service could be run by battery electric trains.

  • A three hour round trip should be possible.
  • Three trains would be needed to provide an hourly service.
  • Oxford, Banbury, Leamington Spa and Warwick would have a direct connection to High Speed Two.

It should also be noted

  • Birmingham Moor Street and Stratford-upon-Avon stations are only 25 miles apart and the journey rakes 46 minutes
  • Banbury and Stratford-upon-Avon are 35 miles apart. and the journey takes 57 minutes.
  • Leamington Spa and Nuneaton are 20 miles apart and the journey takes 36 minutes.

There would appear to be tremendous potential for battery electric services between Birmingham and Oxford.

How many tourists would a Birmingham and Oxford service via Stratford-upon-Avon attract?

Improving The Reading And Newcastle Service

Currently, this is a one tph service between Reading and Newcastle stations.

  • It is run by CrossCountry.
  • Intermediate stops include Oxford, Banbury, Leamington Spa, Birmingham New Street, Derby, Sheffield, Doncaster, York, Darlington and Durham.
  • It appears that the full journey takes four-and-a-half hours.

It looks like to run a two tph service would need as many as twenty trains.

There is an alternative route after High Speed Two opens.

  • High Speed Two – Newcastle and Birmingham Curzon Street – 118 minutes
  • Walk – Curzon Street and New Street – 10 minutes
  • CrossCountry – Birmingham New Street and Reading – 90 minutes

This saves about forty-five minutes.

You could even do a double change.

  • High Speed Two – Newcastle and East Midlands Hub – 96 minutes
  • High Speed Two – East Midlands Hub and Birmingham Interchange – 17 minutes
  • Walk – Birmingham Interchange and Birmingham International – 10 minutes
  • CrossCountry – Birmingham International and Reading – 78 minutes

This gives a time of around three hours and twenty minutes.

High Speed Two certainly saves time.

But look at this map clipped from the High Speed Two web site.

Note.

  1. The blue dot shows the location of Curzon Street station.
    The West Coast Main Line running into New Street station, is just to the South of Curzon Street station.
    New Street station can be picked out to the West of Curzon Street station.

This Google Map shows a close-up of the current Curzon Street station site.

The same pattern of rail lines going past the Curzon Street site into New Street station can be picked out.

Surely, a connection could be made to allow trains from a couple of platforms in Curzon Street station to terminate trains from the West Coast Main Line.

To improve services between Newcastle and Reading, trains would do the following.

  • Run on the current East Coast Main Line infrastructure between Newcastle and York. Station stops could be Durham, Darlington and York.
  • Switch to new High Speed Two infrastructure South of York.
  • Run on High Speed Two infrastructure to Birmingham Curzon Street station. Station stops could be Sheffield, Chesterfield and East Midlands Hub.
  • The train would reverse at Birmingham Curzon Street station.
  • Switch to the West Coast Main Line outside Birmingham Curzon Street station.
  • Run on the West Coast Main Line to Birmingham International station.
  • Take the route currently used by CrossCountry between Birmingham International and Reading. Station stops could be Leamington Spa, Warwick Parkway, Banbury and Oxford stations.

Timings would be as follows.

  • Newcastle and Birmingham Curzon Street – 118 minutes – From High Speed Two web site.
  • Birmingham Curzon Street and Reading – 90 minutes – Current CrossCountry timing.

Note.

  1. This saves about an hour over the current CrossCountry timings.
  2. It could use classic-compatible High Speed Two trains.
  3. Between Birmingham Curzon Street and Newcastle, it follows the same route as one of the current proposed High Speed Two services.
  4. The service could be extended to Edinburgh from Newcastle.
  5. The service could be extended to Southampton from Reading
  6. As there are only twelve tph planned to be running on the Eastern leg of High Speed Two, against a total capacity of eighteen tph, it should be possible to accommodate the extra service or services.

This would surely be a very useful High Speed Two service.

Conclusion

It is a comprehensive package of measures, some of which could have a high cost benefit ratio.

 

 

 

 

July 17, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 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

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 | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Airbus On Electric Flight

This page on the Airbus web site is all about electric flight.

This paragraph greets you.

Today, zero-emission flight is closer to reality than ever. Electric and hybrid-electric propulsion is rapidly revolutionising mobility technologies across industries, from automotive to marine. And the aviation industry is no exception. Airbus is committed to developing, building and testing electric and hybrid-electric future technology that will enable the aviation industry to significantly reduce the CO2 emissions of commercial aircraft.

A read of the whole section is recommended.

A lot of technology will need to be improved even to get say a 60-seat airliner, with a 500 mile range.

  • Design-changing efficient aerodynamics.
  • Lightweight, strong structures.
  • Efficient zero-carbon propulsion systems.
  • Batteries with a much higher energy capacity per kilogram of battery weight.

It’s a tough ask, but I believe it is possible!

We might even see some very unusual ideas. And some proven ones.

Catapults

Naval fighters are usually literally thrown into the air from aircraft carriers using aircraft catapults, which traditionally were steam-powered. Gliders are often towed into the air using a rope.

So could something similar be used to accelerate the aircraft to flying speed?

Taxiing And Take-Off Using A Tug

All taxiing would use a battery-electric or hybrid-hydrogen-electric tug to minimise use of energy from the plane’s batteries.

Could the tug be combined with charging and a vehicle to handle the catapult launch?

  • A fully-charged tug would meet incoming aircraft and tow them to the terminal.
  • The aircraft would use the tug for power, if it was low.
  • At the terminal, the tug and aircraft would be charged, during passenger unloading and loading.
  • On the taxi to the runway, all power would be provided by the tug.
  • The catapult system, would attach to the tug on take-off.
  • Once take-off speed was achieved, the aircraft would disconnect and climb away under its own power.

All the power for acceleration to take-off speed would be provided on the ground and the aircraft wouldn’t have to carry it.

Energy Calculations For An Airbus 220-100

The smallest Airbus aircraft is the A220-100, which has the following specification.

  • Passengers – 135
  • Maximum Take-Off Weight – 63.1 tonnes
  • Cruise speed – 871 kph
  • Take-off speed – 220 kph (estimated)
  • Ceiling – 41,000 ft.

Note that the design cruise speed of the nine-seat electric Eviation Alice is 482 kph at 10,000 ft.

Using Omni’s Kinetic Energy Calculator, the following values are obtained.

  • 220 kph – 32.7 kWh
  • 482 kph – 157 kWh
  • 981 kph – 513 kWh

As the kinetic energy is proportional to the square of the speed, I would expect that a small electric airliner would have a cruise speed slower than current airliners.

I would expect that Alice’s cruise at 482 kph and 10,000 ft., could have been chosen to get a decent range for the maximum size of battery.

The aircraft will also have to be given potential energy in the climb.

Using Omni’s Potential Energy Calculator, the following values are obtained.

  • 5,000 ft. – 262 kWh
  • 10,000 ft. – 524 kWh
  • 41,000 ft. – 2148 kWh

I would expect a small electric airliner  would fly a lot lower.

A 135-seat electric airliner, which is the same weight as an Airbus 220-100 and cruising at 482 kph and 10,000 feet would need the following energy to establish itself in the cruise.

  • Kinetic energy – 157 kWh
  • Potential energy – 524 kWh
  • Take-off energy at 220 kph – 32.7 kWh

Which gives a total of 681 kWh.

It should be noted that both the kinetic and potential energies are proportional to the maximum take-off weight. Assuming that take-off weight would be proportional to the number of passengers, rough estimates for the battery size needed.

  • 25 – 126 kWh
  • 50 – 252 kWh
  • 75 – 378 kWh

As Wikipedia says the smaller nine-seater Eviation Alice has a 900 kWh battery, I feel that at least a fifty passenger electric airliner is possible.

Very Efficient Aerodynamics

One of the biggest losses of energy will be due to less-than-perfect aerodynamics, with vortices, eddies and skin friction wasting precious energy.

Look at the pictures on the Internet of the Eviation Alice and you’ll see a strange aircraft.

  • A very pointed nose.
  • Two propellers at the wing-tips.
  • A third propeller at the tail.
  • I suspect, all the propellers are placed to get the most out of the power.

When Alice is cruising, her energy consumption will be minimal, so that the maximum range for a given battery size can be obtained.

Any electric airliner will draw on all the aerodynamic tricks in the book.

Efficient Flight Profiles

The longest flight, that I ever did in my Cessna 340A was from Southend to Naples.

  • Before take-off at Southend, the fuel bowser followed me to the end of the runway to give me a last-second top-up.
  • I travelled across France on a beautifully-clear day and the accommodating Lyon ATC allowed me to fly at 19,500 feet all the way to French Coast at Nice.
  • The French then decided that, as I was happy at that height, they would hand me over to the Italians without a change of level.
  • So I flew down the Italian coast past Genoa and Rome at 180 knots, with spectacular views all the way.
  • The Italians, then used radar to vector me on to final approach at Naples.

I reckon, I had flown nearly a thousand miles in if I remember correctly about six hours.

But it was a very efficient flight profile to get the range.

  • I took the maximum about of fuel, I could carry.
  • I climbed as fast as possible to an efficient cruising level.
  • I cruised at an efficient speed.
  • I used very little fuel on the descent and landing into Naples.

I certainly was pleased, that I had about another hour’s fuel left, when I arrived in Naples.

Electric aircraft will probably always fly efficient profiles, to get the maximum range. But they will all be calculated by the plane’s computer system.

Most Aircraft Are Heaviest At Take-Off

This is because they burn fuel in the engines, as they fly along.

But a full battery weighs the same as an empty one, so the electric aircraft will have the same flying characteristics in all stages of the flight.

This could have design and operational advantages.

Hybrid Propulsion

Some electric aircraft designs are hybrid, with both battery and turboprop power.

It still cuts carbon emissions and may give better performance.

Fuel created from biomass can also be used.

Conclusion

I expect to fly in an Aubus battery-electric short-haul plane between London and Geneva by 2030.

But I’m certain, I’ll fly before that in an electric aircraft.

 

 

 

 

 

May 20, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 4 Comments

GKN Aerospace Joins Eviation Alice Electric Plane Project As Work Continues After Fire

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article filed under Engineering News on the IMechE web site.

This is the interlocutory paragraph.

Electric plane pioneer Eviation has signed a collaboration agreement with GKN Aerospace for the design and manufacture of wing, tail assembly and electrical wiring interconnection systems for its Alice aircraft.

It is very matter of fact, but does the tie up signal good news and progress, after the prototype Eviation Alice was destroyed in a fire?

As a disruptive innovator and one-time pilot, I like the Alice.

  • The performance, in terms or passenger capacity, speed and range match a market, where money could be made.
  • The propulsion system makes the most of up-and-coming technology.
  • I suspect that the unusual shape allows some efficient aerodynamics to work.
  • Some people might put their money down on a ride in space. A ride in an electric aeroplane would satisfy me.

I think, the Alice could be the first electric plane I ride in.

And the tie up with GKN, makes my dream more likely.

May 19, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment