Aircraft Electrification and the Future of Aviation
The switch from gas to electric engines is currently facing a very upward trend with research and popularity. With electric cars slowly making their way into the forefront of the market, people are looking to other industries to follow suit. Electrification can lead to cleaner environments and reduce pollution. Within the realm of aerospace, fuel efficiency and reduction of emissions through technology and improvements has almost peaked, and electrification seems to be a possible future for aircraft to solve these problems. In this article, we will discuss the possible future of aerospace electrification, as well as its advantages and disadvantages.
Currently, the best method to approach full electrification of aircraft is through the development of hybrid systems. Manufacturers such as Boeing and Airbus have already begun to implement hybrid systems in some of their models, and their on-board systems have begun to rely on battery power. While this may not seem like much of a change, it is a great step towards electrification.
The main problem lies in the fact that there has not been a battery manufactured that has the service life and reliability that is required for full electric propulsion. Siemens has manufactured an electrical motor that has an output that is five times more capable of other comparable electric propulsion systems of the same size, but even then it is nowhere near what is needed by commercial aircraft for sustainable speeds that are required. From past and current trends, it will most likely take until the 2030’s for technology and production to improve to a point to make these systems a possibility.
The other problem with electrification is that it would cause the airframe to have much more mass than they currently do. As fuel is spent during a flight, aircraft are much lighter when landing than they are when they take off. With an electric system, the aircraft would be much heavier than current aircraft when landing. To be able to utilize a full electric system, aircraft mass would have to be lowered.
Posted on December 10, 2019