17 / 12 / 2021

Five myths on electric aviation

Is electric aviation pure utopia? If it ever comes to fruition – is it safe to set foot on an electric plane? We clear out some of the biggest misunderstandings on electric aviation.
Hojdkurvor_02
Teckning 2@2x

Myth 1: Electric aviation is a technical utopia 

It is easy to think that electric aviation is an unrealistic dream, but fact is that research and testing in this area is taking large strides forward in a quick pace. There are already electric planes for two people on the market, and within five years, developers see that there will be planes for up to 19 passengers. These electric planes will be able to fly at least 400 km before their batteries need charging. 

One of the companies developing planes of this type is the Swedish Heart Aerospace, that has signed a prior agreement with Finnair on 20 planes. With United Airlines, the company has made a prior agreement on considerably more planes than that, and the planes are expected to be in operation already in 2026. 

If electric aviation within five years still sounds unrealistic to you, you might draw a parallel to electric cars. How many of us thought five years ago that electric cars would be as ubiquitous as they are today? 

Myth 2: Electric aviation is hazardous 

For many people just the thought of setting foot on an electric plane seems hazardous – how can you trust the new technology to keep you up in the air? It might comfort you to know, that first-generation electric passenger planes have the same fuselage as planes that have flown decades on fossils. 

As testing a new airplane is a rigorous process, some of the companies that develop electric planes have come to the conclusion that it is better to use well-tried fuselages and only change the engines on the planes. 

Speaking of engines, it is important to understand that electric engines go through as rigid safety tests as any type of airplane engine. Electric engines also have much fewer moving parts than combustion engines and are therefore easier and safer to maintain. 

Myth 3: Electric aviation is not sustainable 

It is true that electric airplanes need a lot of energy, but the sustainability of the transport depends entirely on how the electricity is produced. Fact is, that with its high share of renewable energy, the Nordic countries have the most sustainable energy mix in the world. 

Using electric power is also very energy efficient and the need for aviation infrastructure is small compared to other means of transport – just think of what it takes to build a new railway. 

Another typical environmental objection to electric planes regards the batteries and the raw materials needed for them. It is important to remember, that batteries continuously develop in a more sustainable direction. In the Kvarken region, a new cluster is forming for sustainable battery production – the Nordic battery belt. Companies within this cluster work to reduce emissions in the whole value chain, from mineral extraction to production and recycling. 

Myth 4: Electric aviation is only for rich businesspeople 

Someone might wonder why society should invest in electric planes, if mostly only rich businesspeople will have the means to fly them? 

On the contrary to what you might think, electric aviation can, in fact, become more affordable than conventional flying. Its affordability will partly depend on airport tariffs, but the truth is, that electric engines are also more efficient and have fewer moving parts than combustion engines. This is turn results in lower operational costs and maintenance costs. 

Electric aviation might also play an important societal role in the Kvarken region due to the region’s long geographical distances. Electric aviation might result in shorter patient transports och more accessible cargo transports to rural areas, which are both benefits for all residents in the region, not just for businesspeople. 

Myth 5: There is no point ielectic aviation, the range is too short 

It is true that electric planes will at first be flown mostly on shorter routes, as today’s batteries have a range of about 400 km. But 400 km is still quite far, and electric aviation therefore has the potential to improve accessibility in the Kvarken region. New routes that connect places over Kvarken or over the mountains might arise where other transport alternatives are missing. 

The development of batteries is also quickly going forward, which means that the range will increase and prices decrease over time. In other words, we will fly longer and longer distances with electric planes in the future. For really long-distance flights other power alternatives are developed, such as biofuels and hydrogen gas. 

SourcesThe FAIR project of the Kvarken Council, Mathias Lindström, Andreas Forsgren 

FAIR

(Finding innovations to Accelerate the Implementation of electric Regional aviation) is to be seen as a first step of preparing the Kvarken region for an early implementation of electric aviation. The project increases the knowledge base about electric aviation, investigates the possibilities and surveys both the needs and the required technical investments.

Read more flyfairkvarken.com