In this modern world electric cars get all the attention, because they're already a viable method of transportation with new advances coming all the time. But there's still the problem of commercial planes, which generally use massive amounts of kerosene-based fuel to get off the ground. Thankfully some progress is being thanks to EasyJet.
The budget airline has backed new planes to develop commercial aircraft powered by batteries, instead of conventional fuel-based engines. The prototype is set to be developed by US-based Wright Electric, which has already built a two-seater electric plane, and will have a range of 335 miles. The plan is that such planes will be used to fly passengers on short-haul routes within the next 10-20 years.
That range is a bit of a problem, however. According to Google the flying distance between Luton airport and Alicante in Span is just over 938 miles. So when EasyJet says short haul flights they really mean short haul. From Luton that range could get you to Paris (238 miles), Dublin (278 miles), and Edinburgh (310 miles), though, so it's not all bad news.
EasyJet claims that the planes are designed for popular routes to Paris, Brussels, Edinburgh, Cologne, Glasgow and Amsterdam, with capacity for 220 passengers.
Wright Electronic's plan is to use a new battery chemistry that weighs less than traditional batteries. Both it and EasyJet claim that if its successful the new plane would lead to a massive reduction in the amount of fuel being burned (which is better for the atmosphere) and much quieter planes to boot. In other news, once this takes off (no pun intended) you can definitely expect house prices around airports to skyrocket.
Wright's plan is to have batteries in the main body of the prototype plane, using a combination of lithium and aluminium-based batteries that need to offer 1 1/2 to two times more power than existing battery tech. It also wants the propellers to be built into the plane's wing, rather than attached to the underside like current jet engines. It's hoped that this would improve aerodynamics, and reduce the amount of drag the plane produces during flight.
So it's all looking good in the world of battery powered vehicles these days. Now all Wright and EasyJet need to do is explain what the deal with recharging plane batteries is, because batteries that big are going to take more than a few minutes to fill up. [BBC News]