Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Electric future

There's lots of talk about electric aircraft and there are a couple of experimental versions flying, but while they're on the verge of making it to market they aren't there yet. The cost/performance benefit isn't there yet, but that begs the question of what will be an acceptable balance?

For starters it'll have to have two seats - the lighter weight of a single-seat machine might appeal from an engineering point of view, but the market for single-seat aircraft is about as big as their cockpits. I don't think that high speed will be too important, but lack of speed will be a bit of a dampener. 70kt is marginal, 90kt better, 100kt ideal. Range/endurance - it has to be at least a couple of hours surely? Anything less is going to be a real pain, and three-and-a-half to four hours would be ideal. Training aeroplanes will either need a quick charge or a quick change of batteries.

So, two people, for two hours, at 90kt and that, I think, is the bottom end of the acceptable range.

I've heard people predicting that in ten years we'll have four-seaters flying for four hours at a time - and if they manage that at any decent speed (120kt at least) we'll be in for some interesting times.

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