Electric Airplane (How Long Is Your Extension Cord?)

posted in: Flying, technology | 0

Although I have a private pilot’s license, it’s been some years since I’ve had enough coinola in the bank to do anything with it. (The most I ever managed to do was rent a plane once in a while to go for a local pleasure flight. Or, more frequently, rent a plane to go up and do some practice touch-and-go landings. Still, I always loved it.)

I think all the time about taking it up again sometime. But one thing that’s always bothered me is the additional air pollution you create when you go up in a small plane. It’s not like they’re awful—but they don’t have catalytic converters to clean up the exhaust, and for that matter, most of them burn leaded fuel. (Necessary to keep the cylinders cool.)

So I was cheered today when I got my email newsletter from AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association), which had a news item titled: “Environmentally Friendly Aircraft To Take Flight This Year.” It seems Boeing is working on a fuel-cell powered airplane! Here’s an excerpt:

An emission-free experimental aircraft, powered only by a fuel cell and lightweight lithium-ion batteries, could take flight this year. Boeing researchers and industry partners in Europe announced the Fuel Cell Demonstrator Airplane project on March 27. The aircraft is currently undergoing systems integration testing to prepare for ground and flight testing. The aircraft uses a proton exchange membrane fuel cell, which converts hydrogen directly into electricity and heat without combustion, and lithium-ion batters to power an electric motor with a conventional propeller. The fuel cell will provide all of the cruise-flight power, while the batteries will power takeoff and climb phases of flight. Francisco Escarti, managing director of Boeing Research and Technology–Europe, said that the fuel cell and batteries likely won’t power a commercial passenger airliner, but that “demonstrations like this help pave the way for potentially using this technology in small manned and unmanned air vehicles.”

Now, that’s the airplane I want to win in a sweepstakes!

0 Responses

  1. substandardTim
    | Reply

    I heard of a recent study that said that the instruments we have available today to measure global climate changes aren’t nearly sophisticated enough to determine one way or another whether humans have had any affect on global warming.

    And in the same thing, they said that even if we stopped using all of our cars and planes today and never used them again, it wouldnt do anything to stop global warming.

    So go fly 🙂

  2. Jeffrey A. Carver
    | Reply

    I think the preponderance of the scientific evidence overwhelmingly contradicts that assertion, and supports the conclusion that humans contribute materially to global warming. And everything we do to put more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere probably exacerbates the problem.

    Of course, cars and planes and industry and power generation and heating plants are just a part of it. Cows and rice paddies are implicated, too, for their methane emissions.

    The thing that might really push us over the cusp to runaway warming would be if the icecaps shrank enough that buried clathrate layers started releasing huge amounts of methane.

    I’d still do some flying if I could, even in the absence of one of those cool electric planes. But there’s that coinola issue.

  3. substandardTim
    | Reply

    the thing i dont understand is why global warming is considered to be inherently bad for the whole planet.

    greenland is very likely going to be a much more pleasant place to live. antarctica could be an option for habitation eventually. 25% of the world’s oil is thought to be up in the arctic in previously unreachable areas.

    not to get even more off track from your original topic but evironmentalist poster-child al gore who keeps telling everyone how to live, spends thousands of dollars on gas and electric for his estate. Talk about not practicing what you preach.

  4. Jeffrey A. Carver
    | Reply

    Well, there’s bad for the planet, and there’s bad for human civilization. Widespread flooding of major cities and coastal areas is probably not a good thing for civilization, nor is major displacement of populations, nor is the potential for landgrabbing if indeed Greenland and the polar regions become more attractive for development. The possibility for significant shifts in weather and climate patterns–more frequent and more severe hurricanes, drought, flooding, etc.–all hold potential for a great deal of human misery. Plus, there’s the polar bears, which even the current administration has acknowledged are endangered.

    The planet? Yes, it’ll adapt, though the runaway greenhouse effect on Venus should serve as a cautionary sign.

    A recent Atlantic Monthly had an article about who is likely to gain from global warming (Canada, Greenland, etc.)

  5. tsmacro
    | Reply

    So basically we should be investing in companies that are researching treatments that extend our lives and land that’s in the polar regions, so that we have a comfortable place to live while living those extra years.

  6. skipdykoski
    | Reply

    If we keep dumping 70 millions tons of CO2 into the atmosphere a day then go read Six Degrees – our Future on a Hotter Planet. If we actually get to 6 degrees I don’t think the earth will be habitable by any humans. If were smart and act quickly, we may get by with only 2 degree, but if we delay and slide into 3 degrees a major portion of the population will die from starvation, thirst, storms and being overrun by climate nomads. I don’t think you want to go there.

Post your comment before you lose your train of thought. (Mine already left the station.)