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Soaranden

Transitioning to Electric Aircraft

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Probably inevitable at some future date in time but I for one would miss the sound of the engine. I've been in electric cars and as nice as they are I miss the steady hum of a fuel burning engine.

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They don't talk much about the fact that somewhere, that electricity has to be generated, do they?  This whole idea is crazy given technology levels today.  Unless storage battery technology can make an order of magnitude leap (~10X) in energy stored vs. weight, electric powered commercial aviation is a pipe dream. 

 

As Brett notes, probably inevitably some day, but not soon, it will happen.  I expect at some point, which I won't live long enough to see, we'll be on a fusion-nuclear basis with almost everything stationary being electric-powered and with transport fuel being mostly hydrogen, from electrolysis of water.  Recent technology leaps in fracking and extraction of oil and natural gas from tightly bound geo-structures from which it was not economically recoverable until recently will delay that day.  I also expect that commercial aviation will be among the last of the industries to use oil for fuel because it's damned hard to use anything else and still be light enough to a) carry a commercial-sized payload and b) still fly.

 

To date they can't even replicate the speed/range/payload performance of a Cessna Skyhawk on batteries, though somebody is close with a hybrid using - - - wait for it - - - - - an internal combustion engine burning fossil fuel to help out along the way.  Amazing, isn't it?  They have a very long way to go.  I'm not against trying, but battery energy density is the key that's needed and evolutionary changes won't be enough to get it done.  It will require something truly revolutionary.  That will happen, sooner or later - human ingenuity is nearly infinite - but it's not just around the corner.

 

Another factor to think about is the fundamental difference between the ever-diminishing weight of fossil fuel as it is burned and that of batteries,  which weigh essentially the same whether fully charged or depleted.  Some airliner flight profiles today use step climbs as fuel is burned off to reach the desired altitudes, and they gain fuel economy/range/performance benefits materially in the latter part of their flights from the reduced weight as fuel is burned off.  Electric powered aircraft will have to forego that benefit - they will land at about the same weight they take off at.  Think that one through.

 

Elon Musk is having a much higher level of success with kerosene-fueled rockets than he is with battery powered Tesla automobiles despite the fact that building cars isn't exactly rocket science.  Just saying...

 

John

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Press Reporters here are having a field day with the concept of electric vehicles. If you listen to the press hype, we'll all be (not) driving driverless electric cars within five years. The reporting is only going to get worse if the country legalizes pot. 

 

However they're not bright enough to extend the power requirement out to where the vehicle is parked. This is the old "last mile" conundrum. The Province I live in has almost limitless access to cheap, efficient hydroelectric power. We make so much of it that we supply most of the west coast.

 

However, if I want to have a charging station installed in my 30 year old condo, I'm looking at prohibitive costs - if - I can convince the power company to even consider doing the installation. 

 

I imagine the same issue will arise when someone wants to charge up his/her Electro Piper out at the local flying field.

 

My wife and I were in Paris a year or so ago. On our street there were four charging station (parking spaces) dedicated to charging electric vehicles. I didn't count them, but I'm willing to bet there were 100 cars parked on a regular basis on that street. It's hard enough to find a parking spot in a major downtown area. Can you imagine what it will be like if you can only use 4% of the available spots?

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Trouble with electric aircraft is the sheer length of the power lead needed!  :P:whis::huh:

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My 2 cents:

I believe Elon Musk would say that Tesla is a success in progress and SpaceX is progress hoping to be succesful. Elon's goal with Tesla was to kickstart the Electric (not hybrid) car and now truck market...and he has been successful already at that spurring other car makers to offer electric models thanks in part to him open sourcing Tesla's patents....clearly not a move a Money Goal oriented company would make.  SpaceX's goal is to establish a Mars colony...not simply launch satelites. It is successfully launching satelites to prove his rockets, fund progress, and eventually tackle Mars...which venture remains to be seen if he will succeed.

#2 cents

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All true, Coff, and you do well to point it out.  I have no disagreement with anything you said, though it bears mentioning that there is some reason to believe that Musk is well on the way to becoming DeLorean in his automotive venture.  He's in serious trouble there.  He may not be "Money Goal oriented" in that company, but he's not going to shake up the world if his company fails financially.  He's got to stay in business to make much of an impact.

 

SpaceX doesn't really have too much to do with the idea of electric powered aircraft (the thread topic) or automobiles - I just couldn't resist pointing out the irony that Musk is doing rocket science quite successfully on fossil fuel, but really struggling with a production model automobile whose only really unique feature is that it does NOT use fossil fuel (except maybe at the local electric generating plant).  

 

What I did was to compare his level of success at the two enterprises.  His rockets work these days, pretty much as he predicts.  His auto production fails, every quarter, to meet his predictions, and not just by a few percent.  Electric powered vehicles are not easy.  Electric powered vehicles that can fly are all that much harder given the Amp-hrs/pound capability of current battery technology.  What he's attempting to do with the Tesla Model 3 appears to be very, very difficult, yet the Tesla doesn't have to fly, just do what every normal automobile can already do but do it without using an internal combustion engine.

 

Being money oriented at some level is necessary to remain in business and you can't change the world with a few prototype electric cars or airliners.  You'll have to be able to crank them out in their thousands, at competitive prices, with competitive performance or it's just another DeLorean that didn't quite pan out.  If these ideas are ever to materially benefit humankind, they'll have to be successful both technically and economically.  People, even some very smart ones, are sometimes not very good at discriminating between the technically possible and the economically feasible.

 

My point in all this is simply to illustrate that producing a viable, useful electric powered vehicle, whether with wheels or wings, that can do what its petroleum-fueled counterparts can already do rather easily is harder than most people realize.  Battery performance is the main issue, but not the only one.

 

John

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Eventually man will have stripped the planet of all useable fossil fuels and unless a reliable, viable alternative source of energy is found to move people around we'll find ourselves going back to Horse and Cart , (unless of course we've eaten all the horses!) . Ships will once again become wind powered in indeed Japan is now experimenting with a new generation of sail powered cargo ships, These new ones are computer controlled and have none of the complex rigging seen on the old ships. It could very well be the future for seagoing transport as the cry increases for shipping companies to reduce their carbon footprints. I would imagine they would also need to carry an electric powered motor to drive a propellor for manoeuvring within a harbour or to still keep moving when there is no wind.

Electric cars are here but again not in the numbers various governments would like to see. In fact in Britain numbers sold have actually dropped as the lack of a comprehensive charge point infrastructure is putting many people off. ( in our town alone, a coastal destination resort, there are only 2 public charging points!), The British governments 2040 cut off point for conventional cars I think is quite frankly pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking.  Britain is way behind most countries when it comes to use of this technology.  When it comes to aircraft, Airbus etc have already demonstrated that small aircraft can be flown short distances on battery power, but the idea of an electric long range airliner is decades away yet.  Batteries by their very nature are exceedingly heavy and Solar power is just not practical at the moment. There may indeed come a time when flying will once again be for the privileged few and most aircraft will have been driven from the skies. Now oddly enough, a lot of this was predicted in the late 60s early 70s when I was child reading various educational magazines, ( one of the best was called World of Wonder and my parents got that for me for years.) Even back then this very problem of alternative fuel was being examined.   

https://cleantechnica.com/2018/01/31/eco-marine-power-testing-solar-sails-ocean-going-cargo-ships/

 

 

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On 4/10/2018 at 05:23, dodgy-alan said:

Electric cars are here but again not in the numbers various governments would like to see. In fact in Britain numbers sold have actually dropped as the lack of a comprehensive charge point infrastructure is putting many people off. ( in our town alone, a coastal destination resort, there are only 2 public charging points!), The British governments 2040 cut off point for conventional cars I think is quite frankly pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking.  Britain is way behind most countries when it comes to use of this technology.

 

 

In America, VW has a huge subsidiary called "Electrify America." It's been reported that the first phase of their plan calls for 2,800 charging stations. Big retailer Walmart has come aboard by requesting Electrify America charging stations for many of its stores. Here is Electrify America's Plan

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As we lose the ability to use fossil fuels through necessity or choice much of the international travel that takes place in terms of people and goods must revert to the sea. Boats can be wind powered either directly or by electricity generated from the wind. battery weight wont be a problem, range will be limitless and no carbon footprint.

 

We all get a parrot for our shoulder, a wooden leg and free lessons on how to properly pronounce "Ha-Harr Jim lad! Shiver me timbers!". Further more we all get to know how to get rid of Seaman Staines, how Bosons mate and what Roger the cabin boy really entails.

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I see it states that some of the materials used to make modern batteries can give off dangerous gasses if they get wet.  That sounds suspiciously lit WW2 submarine technology!

 

I have been looking at changing my car lately. I wanted a hybrid that can take a large dog in the back. The Lexus RX looked good until I found it can only go 30 miles on electric power from its batteries. Oh hum - back to my trusty diesel and bugger the pollution!

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WW2 sub batteries were simply large lead-acid batteries similar to what we use to start our automobiles but much bigger, with only one cell per jar.  Mix sulphuric acid with salt water and you get chlorine gas.  Also, lead-acid batteries give off hydrogen gas when charging.  

 

John

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20 hours ago, allardjd said:

WW2 sub batteries were simply large lead-acid batteries similar to what we use to start our automobiles but much bigger, with only one cell per jar.  Mix sulphuric acid with salt water and you get chlorine gas.  Also, lead-acid batteries give off hydrogen gas when charging.  

 

John

 

Hydrogen in a sub.  That would make it a bugger to trim!

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4 hours ago, J G said:

Hydrogen in a sub.  That would make it a bugger to trim!

 

They only charged while surfaced.   Also, no net weight change - see the Law of Conservation of Mass.

 

Chlorine was the greater threat if leakage, bilgewater, etc. got to the batteries or if a cell jar cracked and leaked acid into the bilges, particularly when submerged.  The boats were very well ventilated when surfaced, partly because of the large amount of air drawn into the main induction by the diesels.

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4 hours ago, allardjd said:

 

   Also, no net weight change - see the Law of Conservation of Mass.

 

 

Indeed, but the mass of the batteries is in the bottom of the sub and stable.  The mass of hydrogen would be at the top of the compartment and free to move.

However it would be such a small amount so as to be negligible in effect. Unless someone wanted a smoke.....

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