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Here are some of the concerns we have heard when we recently ran a social media campaign for our pure electric airplane, the MySkyECO MS-1 e:

1. Electric airplanes cannot be useful for anything as they lack endurance

As of today, this is absolutely true. The battery technology (specifically the weight/energy ratio) is not there yet. It is impossible to create an electric aircraft for general purposes, similar to a Cessna 172 or a Piper Archer. We could make the airplane fly, but it would not have the endurance needed for a cross country flight.

We are very well aware of this fact. And we are not planning for a pure electric all-purpose aircraft anytime soon. However, there is a market for a 2-seat trainer aircraft to be used in commercial flight school environments. We are planning for an endurance of 1 hour and 30 minutes. That is doable today. By the time we roll our aircraft out, battery technology might have improved slightly. There is an FAA rule that mandates a 30 minute fuel reserve. There is not indication that the FAA will loosen up this rule. And, in my view, they shouldn’t. This reserve is needed for safe operations, be it with fossil fuel or electric power.

That limits the flight time to about an hour. In flight schools, there are are many training missions which can be completed within that time. The aircraft will return to its home base after the flight and can be recharged there – while the next student is getting ready for his or her lesson. Charging times are much shorter now than they used to be. The MySkyECO MS-1e would be ideal for this purpose. The airlines – eager to show their customers that they are doing SOMETHING to mitigate the environmental impact will be extremely interested.

But if we want an all purpose aircraft, it will have to be a hybrid, one with a range extender. Now you can cover distances. This is not the perfect solution from an environmental standpoint. But it could be one for a transitional phase. And it would be a big improvement over airplanes currently available.

2. I would never fly in an electric airplane as I would not know when the battery power is exhausted

In a conventional plane, you have fuel gauges. Although they are notoriously unreliable in small airplanes, they at least give you a rough idea about how much fuel is left in your tanks. The FAA has rules about fuel monitoring. If a fuel gauge is not working, the aircraft is not legal to fly.

Within the last 10 years thousands of scientists and technicians have worked on the solutions needed to monitor batteries during flight. You will have instruments which tell you exactly what the charging state of your batteries is during flight and you will know exactly how much capacity is left at any time.

There is not much difference compared to flying a conventional aircraft. If there is, the new monitoring system will be more precise than our current fuel gauges.

 

3. Electric airplanes cannot work as they are too heavy and never get lighter during flight. You can’t land an airplane with full fuel load.

I am almost sure that the one who made this comment is an airline pilot. Large transport airplanes have maximum landing weights (MLW) which are significantly lower than their maximum take-off weights (MTOW). Take the Boeing 737 max as an example:

Boeing 737 max

The maximum take off weight (MTOW) for this one is 82,190 KG. The maximum landing weight (MLW) is 69,310 KG. The difference is more than 15%.

When it comes to light aircraft MLW is not a limiting factor for most light aircraft models. An example is the Cessna 172:

Cessna 172

One model of the popular Cessna 172 has an MTOW of 2,450 lbs. There is no maximum landing weight specified.

Piper Arrow

One version of the popular Piper Archer has an MTOW of 2,750 lbs. The maximum landing weight is specified as 2,750 lbs.

 

4. When we all flew electric airplanes, the power grid would collapse

Yes, we need to do something about the power grid. But electric airplanes will not be much of a contributing factor. Electric cars could very well bring it to its limits very soon. Depending how fast the demand for electric cars takes off.

But the most important thing: We must seek and find new and sustainable energy sources. Green Hydrogen could be the solution. It would be created domestically. No dependence on  foreign sources anymore. Plasma Kinetics has the solutions for safe storage.

5. Li-ion batteries can overheat and burn or explode

Yes, that has happened, and it continues to happen on a daily basis. But not with airplanes involved. Not even cars. Today the problem is mostly withy electric scooters.

All over the world, battery manufacturers have been diligently working to make Li-ion batteries safe for use in aircraft. In a modern system, all individual cells are constantly monitored for temperature. If certain parameters are exceeded, the battery controller will shut down the affected string of batteries. The battery packs will be divided into several strings. In the case one has to shut down, there is ample redundancy.

In 2013 there was a problem with the Li-ion batteries on the Boeing 787. The FAA was criticized for lax oversight and not noticing Boeing’s design error. That will not happen again. The FAA will make sure that batteries are safe to operate

6. Electric airplanes – like electric cars – don’t help the environment at all

I would not say “at all”. There is some benefit, but I would agree that it is not “that much”. As long as the batteries are charged by electricity from coal or oil fueled powerplants, there is not so much benefit. We need to have new power sources. We are working on it. Every aircraft hangar that is not fitted with solar voltaic panels, to at least generate some of the energy needed, can be seen as a waste of energy. Its not really wasted but “failed to generate” for free. We are working on the infrastructure for electric and  hydrogen powered aircraft. Every operator can produce electricity (and hydrogen) by using the roof of an aircraft hangar to install photovoltaic panels.