EasyJet Says Electric 9-Seat Jet Will Hit The Skies Next Year

NOV 2 2018 BY MARK KANE 65

Maiden flight of 9-seater expected in 2019.

Budget British airline EasyJet, which engaged in the Los Angeles-based Wright Electric start-up, reports progress on the development of an all-electric airliner – “Progress has been made”.

According to Flight Global’s article, next year Wright Electric will be able to perform the first flight of a nine-seat electric aircraft.

There are few details on the project, but EasyJet hopes for 500 km (310 miles) of range and dreams to establish the first electric flyway between London and Amsterdam. The aircraft is to be designed by Darold Cummings, former Boeing and the US Department of Defense employee.

There are also some enigmatic mentions about the new novel motor, but regardless of motors, we hope the required battery progress is already in place to take the project seriously.

“Wright Electric has applied for a patent of a “novel motor design” to power an “EasyJet-sized” electric airliner, says the airline, without providing detail of the architecture being proposed.”

[The] development suggests that the transition towards an all-electric commercial passenger jet capable of flying passengers across EasyJet’s UK and European network is in sight,” it adds.”

The ultimate goal is to develop 150-seat all-electric airplane with a 300 mile (nearly 500 km) range.

On Wright Electric’s twitter we found that company forwarded solid-state battery news, which is probably where the battery hopes are directed.

Source: Flight Global

Categories: General

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65 Comments on "EasyJet Says Electric 9-Seat Jet Will Hit The Skies Next Year"

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Dan F.

Pipe dreams. The first commercially useful electric aircraft will likely be hybrid gas turbine/electric. Jet fuel (kerosene) is about 12+ kWh per kilogram, batteries maybe 0.20-0.25 kWh per kilogram. Weight (mass really) is vastly more critical for aircraft than for anything ground based.

BillT

Color me skeptical as well but I would be delighted to be wrong. I think aircraft and pleasure watercraft (IE speedboats) are two pretty tough nuts to crack. Mass is critical for aircraft as you point out. But, aircraft and speedboats also operate near full power much of the time. A Tesla Model 3 certainly won’t go 310 miles at its very top speed.

Terawatt

I largely agree, but not with this:

> aircraft and speedboats operate near full power much of the time

I don’t know about speedboats, but for aircraft, at least airliners, full power is rarely used. Even during takeoff airliners normally do not use full power, except in an emergency, such as losing an engine during takeoff. From Wikipedia:

> Below V1, in case of critical failures, the takeoff should be aborted; above V1 the pilot continues the takeoff and returns for landing. After the co-pilot calls V1, he/she will call VR or “rotate,” marking speed at which to rotate the aircraft. The VR for transport category aircraft is calculated such as to allow the aircraft to reach the regulatory screen height at V2 with one engine failed.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Takeoff

Power is reduced shortly after takeoff during the early stage of the climb. Cruising is optimized for fuel efficiency. I couldn’t find immediately what power level is typically used, but I am pretty sure it is closer to idle than to full power. A 747 can lose 3 of its 4 engines in mid-Atlantic flight and still maintain altitude and fly as long as fuel permits).

John

I believe most commercial planes takeoff at between 50-75% throttle, and cruise between 25-50%.
I’ve been in an airplane on a short runway, and the captain warned us it was going to be a full throttle takeoff. Holy cow…it’s a kick in the pants.

Ron M

Well a 737 still uses about 5 gallons of fuel per mile. So even if it doesn’t have to go full power it still requires a lot of energy.

trackdaze

Solid state is around triple those energy densities. You also gain some with the reduced weight of the electric motors versus internal combustion and jet turbine.
Add in some solar generation on roof and wings and your viable.

SJC

“triple those energy densities…”
No, solid state are safer but not 3 times the energy density.

Pushmi-Pullyu

Some startup or another may have made a claim for 3x energy density for its solid-state batteries, but that’s a very long way from saying that commercially produced solid-state batteries, when they finally appear, will have 3x the energy density of current li-ion batteries used in EVs. It’s easy to guess that solid state batteries will have an energy density that’s different, but whether it will be higher or lower than current batteries when they first appear… I think that’s anybody’s guess.

Alonso Perez

For Europe it can work. Many very short flights, combined with extreme difficulty in adding conventional jets due to noise corridor restrictions, NIMBY on pollution, etc. For hops like London-Paris, London-Amsterdam, Berlin-Krakow, or Dublin to Edinburgh, all close city pairs with no good rail links, not only is electric possible but very sensible from a cost basis, since low altitude fuel burn is very high and those flights never reach cruise.

Davek

Uh, London-Paris doesn’t have a good rail connection? Says who? The Chunnel is the fastest way to get between those cities and I don’t know anyone who really flies that route if they have a choice. London-Amsterdam is similar. I get what you mean and I agree with your point, but the examples you chose aren’t the best ones.

Benedictus

The real problem is that flying is cheaper than rail. Many people fly Amsterdam – London or Amsterdam – Paris.
It’s not much faster, it’s worse for the environment, but it’s cheaper. Partly because there is no, or hardly any, taxation on flight, Kerosene or CO2. Also partly because there is hardly any infrastructure or complex planning necessary between point A and B. The Eurostar train is trying to compete, but still you have to go from one train (Thalys) to the other (Eurostar) during the trip.

There are 60 daily flights between Amsterdam and London. 22 of those are done by Easyjet. A lot of these trips are same day return.

Alonso Perez

36 LON-PAR direct flights listed, though not all fly all seven weekdays, but still a heck of a frequency for a flight nobody uses. London City (LCY) is especially apt for this kind of flight if London is one of your end points, but also bear in mind that many of these are connecting flights so the train is not a good option. Say you fly Paris – NYC with British Airways, Sao Paulo – London with KLM, etc.

Davek

I still say the first real electric planes will be fuel cell powered. Hydrogen is nice and light and you can store enough of it to make a transatlantic flight possible if you need to.

Djoni

Then why is all FCEV just as heavy or heavier then their BEV counterparts?

Davek

Because cars don’t need that much energy and fuel cells are complex and heavy. But the nice thing is that your storage capacity with a fuel cell system scales independently of your power capacity, unlike with batteries. You want ten times the energy in a BEV? Great, you have to put in ten times the battery mass. You want ten times the energy in a FCEV? All you need is another few tanks or one really big one, but the fuel cell stack stays the same size. That’s why energy-intensive applications like ships and planes will probably end up turning to fuel cells.

Pushmi-Pullyu

Those unfamiliar with the subject will know less after reading your comment than before reading it. 🙄

Hydrogen, even highly compressed hydrogen, has a very poor energy-to-volume ratio when compared to gasoline, diesel, or aviation fuel. That’s why it will never, ever be used as a fuel for commercial airliners or passenger/cargo ships. Either would require losing much or most of the cargo/passenger space to fuel tanks.

SJC

Reform jet fuel to hydrogen on board, liquid fuels are more energy dense and don’t require high pressure tanks.

Davek

And where does this jet fuel you speak of come from? Tapped directly from the common kerosene tree, perhaps?

Pushmi-Pullyu

So… you’re gonna reform “jet” fuel into H2 using onboard reformers, which will then be used to power electric motors to drive propellers.

Does anybody see any problem here?

Hint: Prop-driven planes max out at about 0.7 Mach. Commercial airliners typically fly at 0.9 Mach.

P.S. — What would be the space and weight requirements for reformers with sufficient output to be able to feed the fuel cells needed to propel such a plane at 0.7 Mach? What fraction of the airplane’s interior space and weight capacity would that occupy?

Pushmi-Pullyu

“I still say the first real electric planes will be fuel cell powered. Hydrogen is nice and light…”

Yeah, it has high energy density by weight. Unfortunately, it has very poor energy density by volume, even when highly compressed and put into heavy tanks. Unless you plan on displacing most of the passenger/cargo space with huge fuel tanks, that’s not gonna happen.

Although trying to use hydrogen as the fuel for heavy trucks is a non-starter because of the cost, it would be even worse for airliners.

viriato

I think, in the future probably the electricity could not be applicable for some transportation modes, Anyway, mayba we can’t avoid the use of combustion engines, but we can do it more enviromental friendly. If the combustible for planes, came from plants, seaweed…. the CO2 impact will be neutral. With adecuate postcombustion treatments, they will be clean energies.

u_serious?

Jet?!?!?!?

Miggy

EasyJet could change it’s name to E-Jet

Doggydogworld

More like E-prop.

Pushmi-Pullyu

Hmmm… Call me cynical, but I think this so-called “electric jet” is gonna be prop-driven. That is, if it actually gets off the ground.

They claim they’re gonna make the maiden flight next year, but they’ve apparently only recently applied for the patent for their “novel motor”. Unfortunately, that reads all too much like the overly optimistic claims that are typical of a high-tech startup.

Omicron

To be fair, modern airliners aren’t really jet-driven anymore either. Their high-bypass turbofans produce the majority of their thrust simply by pushing ambient air; the turbine is mostly used to drive the fan, and adds only a small amount of jet thrust itself.

Turbofans are just turbine-driven ducted fans, so by removing the turbine and adding an electric motor, you can have the exact same fan propel the same plane, just electric. The question merely becomes: is that still the best architecture when you don’t have to build heavy turbines anymore? Not everyone seems to agree on one answer yet. Airbus has been testing with large ducted fans, while NASA went for spamming the entire wing full of small propellers. Based on my limited understanding, both probably have merit; propellers will be more frugal with precious battery power, but fans will allow for higher airspeeds.

Pushmi-Pullyu

Thanks for the “info dump”! 🙂

I’d still like to know more about turbofans, and how they differ from ordinary propellers. Can turbofans drive a plane at 0.9 Mach without any assist from burning fuel in the jet engine? So far as I know, the answer is “no”. For example, the experimental SUGAR hybrid plane travels at only 0.7-0.75 Mach. As I understand it, it only burns fuel in the jet engines for takeoffs and landings.

Do Not Read Between The Lines

It’s a hybrid-electric plane.
Not an electric plane.
They write that their hybrid 9-seater could use as little as 1/3 of the 150gal that a conventional plane might use.

Pushmi-Pullyu

Thanks! That’s much more believable. So, the “electric jet” label is just something to attract attention and investors, not an indication that they really have developed an electric jet. I assumed as much from reading the article, altho it would have been marvelous to be wrong! 🙂

Do Not Read Between The Lines

Yes, all electric is the ultimate aim, but the hybrid approach is much more practical for airplanes. Besides the issue of weight, airplanes have an additional challenge in that they are _mandated_ to carry a significant fuel reserve. Contrast with ground transportation that can increase refueling frequency.

SJC

No, this one claims to be all electric, it is a company of 10 people, just a press release.

Do Not Read Between The Lines

https://weflywright.com/2018/10/30/wright-weport-november-2018/

No, easyJet mentions electric, through Wright Electric, but if you go to Wright Electric and follow through the links, the 9-seater they’re talking about is a hybrid.

Spin

One problem with electric aircraft is landing weight. A typical passenger aircraft cannot land at its takeoff weight. For instance, a 747-400 has a max takeoff weight of 910,000 lbs and a max landing weight of 652,000 lbs. An electric aircraft will not burn fuel and lose weight during flight so take off weight will be dictated by landing weight.

Kosh

Plus, you need enough extra range to handle unexpected “holding patterns” when landing.

SJC

The FAA requires 30 minutes of flying margin, a lot of EV planes can barely stay aloft that long.

Do Not Read Between The Lines

Fuel reserve is a big barrier to pure electric.

scott

It can use primary batteries and drop them from the sky as they become fully discharged. No problem.

Pushmi-Pullyu

😆 LOL! 😆

Sure, no problems there.

Pushmi-Pullyu

The short range indicated for this proposed aircraft (310 miles) might make battery power possible. Altho from what “Do Not Read Between the Lines” posted upstream, it’s actually a hybrid aircraft which will carry fuel.

KenZ

I was a skeptic about eAviation too, but this podcast is worth listening to:

https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/electric-airplanes-are-the-future-of-aviation#gs.uH4Z6Ws

Once you realize that it doesn’t have to address the same business or even flight route model, that changes things. Just like the older 60 mile EVs aren’t just like “real” cars but instead fit a particular niche VERY well, eAirplanes may very well fit the same.

John

I refuse to board an all electric plane! It could die in the mid air then crash! Hybrid is good as there’s backup power! I do like hybrid for short to midrange flight as it may not need to use gas at all! Bring it on!

Davek

Why not refuse to board any plane then? If God had wanted man to fly, he would have given him wings! /s

Anyway, as a former sailplane pilot, I can definitively say that running out of fuel isn’t all that bad, really. Search for the Gimli Glider, for example 😉

SteveSeattle

There will be redundancy in an E-plane, just as most current jets rely on 2 engines.

Scott Franco

Yep, right after monkeys fly out of my rear end.

Barry

It’s disappointing to see such negative reactions to electric planes on an EV site. Most people thought the same of cars, buses, and ferries, and are now proved wrong.

Umangi Singh

because it is not Tesla.

Pushmi-Pullyu

Or maybe it’s because some of us understand that an all-electric “jet” is science fiction at this time. Theoretically possible using MHD (MagnetoHydroDynamics), but beyond current tech.

Also, some of us understand the energy/weight ratio for current batteries makes a 9-seat commercial aircraft — even a prop-driven one — with a 310 mile range, a formidable engineering challenge with today’s battery tech. Especially, as someone already noted, since the FAA requires that commercial flights carry 30 minutes extra fuel for safety reasons. The weight of batteries for the equivalent additional flight time would weigh down the aircraft considerably.

David H

I’m aware that the presented plane might be hybrid itself, but for the sake of argument, let’s assume it’s electric.

There is no need to provide the extra range by battery power. A very efficient (slow moving) plane would only need very little fuel. Look at Pipistrel for example. They fly for 1 hour on 21 kWh. Granted, it’s an extremely lightweight plane and no 9 seater, but you could easily add a fuel cell and a small hydrogen tank with enough energy to provide power in an emergency without sacrificing that much weight (at least not in the region of tons that the batteries would weigh).

Pushmi-Pullyu

The Pipistrel is also not a commercial airliner. The proposed airplane here is intended to be. No commercial airliner is going to be a “slow moving” plane.

And… Great Flying Spaghetti Monster! What is this mad obsession that so many EV enthusiasts have for wanting to convert every form of transport into fuel cell use?

Hint: A fuel cell is not going to need “a small hydrogen tank”. If it is to provide a significant amount of flight time, then it will need a “mucking big hydrogen tank”! H2 requires a much, much higher volume for the same amount of energy than aviation fuel, for the same energy content. Trying to use compressed H2 to power a large vehicle like a semi truck is crazy, but trying to use that to power a commercial airliner would be certifiably insane.

Davek

Magnetohydrodynamics? People would probably be put off by planes that sound like whales humping.

EarthBall

…or perhaps curiously aroused?

Pushmi-Pullyu

Lol! 😆 I think you’ve read (or watched) The Hunt for Red October too many times. 😉

Quiviran

Don’t understand your fascination with propellers. The ducted fan of a modern jet engine is much more efficient. You just replace the fuel burning core with an electric motor. The fan then just hoovers the molecules from the intake to the exhaust and the airframe tries to keep up.

However, when the batteries are done, it’s not going to glide very well. The weight of the batteries are going to induce a lot of drag.

Doggydogworld

Ducted fan is not efficient.

Weight doesn’t hurt your glide ratio. Competitive sailplanes carry water ballast to increase weight.

Pushmi-Pullyu

It would be better for your argument if you could point to some commercial airliner which uses turboprops but does not burn fuel in them. But of course, you can’t. There must be some advantage to propellers vs. turbofans other than lower manufacturing cost. If there wasn’t, then prop-driven planes carrying more than 4 passengers would by now be as obsolete as steam engine cars. As it is, we see many regional airliners driven by propellers.

“The weight of the batteries are going to induce a lot of drag.”

If your understanding of the physics of airplane flight is this limited, then you have no business trying to lecture me on the subject. Weight counters lift, but does not produce drag. Period.

Scott Franco
“It’s disappointing to see such negative reactions to electric planes on an EV site” We are NOT negative on electric planes. We are negative on BS stories about how the issues with them are going to be solved by next week. I am both a pilot and work in the automotive industry (self driving, in fact). The issues with airplanes are different than with cars: 1. Airplanes are very much more sensitive to weight than cars. 2. Airplanes COUNT on having the “fuel” get lighter as the airplane flies. Fuel is heavy, either in battery or kerosene/gas form. Liquid fuels, however, go to zero weight as time goes on, which increases the efficiency of the aircraft as it flies. The weight issue is one reason why advancing car battery technology is not helping aircraft as much as you would think. Cars don’t primarily optimize for weight, but rather cost. EV aircraft will happen, but it is going to take effort, and perhaps batteries designed for aircraft. Right now, EV aircraft have flight times less than their required commercial reserve time, the flight time EXTRA you must have by law and by common sense beyond the time it takes to reach… Read more »
Do Not Read Between The Lines

Dublin, Ireland to Manchester, UK is a short hop example. Have to meet turnaround times though, so not only need high energy density, but fast charge capability.

Pushmi-Pullyu

Thank you! That’s a great summary of the state of the art.

Yes, we can expect to see all-electric, prop-driven airliners doing short hop flights in the foreseeable future. No “electric jet” needed! Nor any turbofans, either.

Udi

Commercial Electric planes will only be feasible when LENR technology reaches maturity, and the electricity can be produced on board.

Until then, the benefit of such companies is in advancing light materials, energy efficiency and aerodynamics.

Pushmi-Pullyu

LENR is bogus science. It’s fake.

On the other hand, direct conversion of nuclear power to electricity in a lightweight reactor with only tin foil for shielding — and no, I’m not joking — has been demonstrated in the lab. So we just might see that powering prop planes, trucks, and cars someday.

But that still wouldn’t give us an “electric jet”.

https://tinyurl.com/y7d8fopb

Terawatt

Potentially interesting – but it remains to be seen.

> Wright Electric has applied for a patent of a “novel motor design” to power an “EasyJet-sized” electric airliner, says the airline, without providing detail of the architecture being proposed.”

Patent applications are public documents. I don’t know if Google Patents is always up to date, or if it is complete, but I cannot find any patent filed after 2010 that includes the phrase “wright electric” (case insensitive) anywhere in the text:

https://patents.google.com/?assignee=%22wright+electric%22&after=filing:20100101&oq=%22wright+electric%22+after:filing:20100101

Terawatt

Ooh, I didn’t know this:

> Patent applications are generally published 18 months after the earliest priority date of the application. Prior to that publication the application is confidential to the patent office.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patent_application#Publication

Bunny

If it doesn’t work just blame it on auto pilot lol

Ron

I was curious about the “Jet” component – maybe a Dyson vacuum cleaner blowing out the back? One possibility to improve range would be a cable or other mechanism for launching it like a glider or aircraft carrier. Getting up to ~100 mph without battery depletion would seem to extend the range. Maybe take off in tandem with one plane pulling the other the first 20 miles – up to altitude and full speed?

Quiviran

Sounds like a job for a rail gun.