DEVELOPING “THE MORE ELECTRIC AIRCRAFT”
Sido Kermans and Mark Gerber - Vice President Product Development and Senior R&D Engineer
Electrification might strike most people as something from recent years, but in aviation this development already took off more than two decades ago. Like the automotive industry, today’s main motivation is sustainability. And our technical developments are mainly fueled by… fuel. Or to be more precise: the wish to use less fuel.
The history of electrification in aviation is marked by big breakthroughs. Leaps rather than steps. Take the old jumbo jet from the sixties. The plane itself served its purpose for a long time, but at a certain point you’re done with further developing it.
Fuel burn reduction
Air travel fares are under continuous pressure. Ticket prices are heavily impacted by the fuel an aircraft burns, and fuel savings translate into lower fares. Although originally sparked off by economic incentives, the reason for fuel burn reduction nowadays has shifted from low travel fares to improving sustainability. Lower fuel burn means less pollution and that’s what the air traveler appreciates. The fact that air travelers have become environmentally aware even spun out a new vocabulary: flight shame.
Crossing the ocean
Electrification provides a means of achieving lower emissions, and this drives the need for “the more electric aircraft”. Initially, it started by removing auxiliary functions from the main engine and making them electric, such as de-icing and engine starting. Now, electrification goes all the way to full electric flight. At first glance, the weight and size of the battery seems to be the biggest challenge. But imagine how long it would take to charge such a battery if you want to cross the ocean. That’s why many of us believe that, in the short term, electric flights are confined to domestic flights. Flying intercontinental fully electric is still far off, but a dream that will hopefully come true one day.
A new level playing field
Now, more than ever, it’s time for disruption. We as an industry need to develop something groundbreaking, changing the market instead of making incremental steps. And with this challenge, everyone – large and small – is at the same starting point: inventing new technology from scratch. The main concern? You need time and expertise to do this. For Aeronamic, this is a clear path. We have the know-how and experts, and we can invest time in nurturing disruption. We believe a big part of “the more electric aircraft” is to make machines more intelligent. And with that, we are well on our way.
What are your thoughts on the more electric aircraft?