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Thread: An idea for electric aviation

  1. #1

    An idea for electric aviation

    So I love the idea of electric powered airplanes. The two main drawbacks right now, are the weight/range ratio and the charge time. The weight to range problem is being improved all the time, and shouldn't be a problem within a few years.

    The charge time, however, will take YEARS of development to improve significantly...and will probably never get to the 10 minutes or less it takes to fill up an airplane's tank.

    So my suggestion would be that developers create a standard for batteries and airports carry banks of them. This way instead of waiting for your batteries to charge, you simply replace them with already charged ones at the airport for a slight fee. (Obviously designers would have to make the batteries easily removable for this to work.)

    This way you'd buy a plane with batteries in it, but you don't really count the batteries as "yours." You switch them out whenever their running low. Airports charge something like $50 or even more to replace batteries. That will very easily cover the cost of buying and charging the batteries for the airport.


    I think that's the best solution for electric power to REALLY work. What do you guys think?

  2. #2

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    They're not doing it for cars yet, with the potentially huge market. The aircraft market is so much smaller that it's unlikely to make economic sense.

    The weight/range ratio is still up against the constraints of physics and chemistry. You just can't pack as much energy, by an order of magnitude, into any possible electrochemical reaction as you can into an equivalent weight of gasoline.

  3. #3
    Eric Page's Avatar
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    There have been similar proposals for cars. The idea is that each car will have a standard battery pack mounted underneath. When the battery is drained, you drive the car into a bay with a service pit, and a robot changes the battery for a fresh one.

    There's a system like this being tested in Israel. I haven't read anything recently, but this Google search provides several articles about it from earlier coverage.
    Eric Page
    Member: EAA, AOPA, ALPA, NRA
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    Then there is the problem of older battery packs than the one you just changed out. Who pays for the battery packs that are "out-of-date" or will not hold sufficient charge anylonger and must be replaced?

    Would you be satisfied with receiving a 2 yr old replacement battery pack from an FBO for your 6 mo old battery pack? Especially when you are on a cross country and at an airport that you may nerver return to...to retrieve your "newer" battery pack?

    Or maybe you can replace your battery pack with an "loaner" from the FBO, while yours is being charged, for a standard fee. That would mean you would have to return to the same airport to retrieve your fully charged battery pack. And who would accept the responsibility for keeping track of "your" battery pack to ensure you get the correct one back? Or who would assume the responsibilty for ensuring your battery pack was charged correctly and had the correct amount of charge in it?

    And.....
    And.....
    And.....well, you get my drift.

  5. #5
    Eric Page's Avatar
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    I think the idea in the Israeli model is that you own everything but the battery. The battery system operator owns the batteries and you simply lease them. When you buy the car, part of the price is a one-time battery deposit or buy-in charge, then you just pay a nominal fee for each exchange. You don't own any specific battery, but rather you own access to a charged battery exchange when needed. It's up to the battery system operator to properly charge/maintain/test the batteries and dispose of them when they've reached their life limit. It would be a trivial matter to assign a unique ID to each battery so the system could track charge/discharge cycles and related health stats.

    The real beauty of the system is that electric power is provided in a way that closely mimics what we presently expect with gasoline-powered cars. How this would work in aviation is another matter...
    Eric Page
    Member: EAA, AOPA, ALPA, NRA
    ATP: MEL / Comm: SEL, Glider / ATCS: CTO
    Map of Landings

  6. #6

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    Hindering the Advancement of Battery Technology

    How does this work if different airplanes have different battery packs? In other words how does a Piper "Cub" carry the battery pack for a Cessna 182? All would also have to be the same voltage and have the same current drain characteristics. Also important to me would be how long do the batteries have to be in service to "break even"? And, with that said, do I want to stay with an Li-ion battery when a Li-Po battery comes along? As noted earlier, there are soooooo many questions, and until it becomes financially viable, it won't happen ... regretfully.

    Keep thinking, though, we need more out-of-the-box ideas to re-energize aviation.

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