The Great Electric Airplane Race

Will electric planes replace polluting airliners and lead to flying taxis in our cities? Great show about tackling this problem from NOVA.

Watch The Great Electric Airplane Race


This is cool technology that isn’t noted in the NOVA because it is not electric… yet – it uses fluid dynamics (the Coandă effect, like in Dyson fans) for efficient (x15) and quiet ‘bladeless’ lift: Jetoptera.


Er, no. Unless the electric is used to create hydrogen. It’s nearly as good a fantasy as nuclear fusion.

‘The potential of all-electric propulsion remains limited for general aviation, as in 2018 the specific energy of electricity storage was still only 2% of aviation fuel.[14] This 1:50 ratio makes electric propulsion impractical for long-range aircraft, as a 500 nmi (930 km) mission for an all-electric, 12-passenger aircraft would require a six-fold increase in battery power density.[15]

Did you watch the video?

I don’t think he looked at the efficiency of the physics in the Jetoptera engineering, either. They already have a drone working.

And then there’s this recent development, which was not addressed in the NOVA:

Och no. I just check out the actual technology. I’m most impressed you can get a manned aircraft heavier than a microlite off the ground with batteries for minutes. Let me know when there’s an order of magnitude breakthrough in that technology from two centuries ago. I’ll buy shares.

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The original Wright Brothers flight covered 37m in 12 seconds. When I was younger I could easily run faster than that for miles and miles. Even today I could go much farther than 37m at the speed of the Wright Brothers flight.

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The Nova presentation was about a clean energy alternative to commercial airlines. Commercial airlines are extremely polluting and are projected to become even worse.

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Aye Chris. The first flight was shorter than a Jumbo. But I don’t think that is an analogy [for the bad sci-fi of electric planes taking off…].

It is definitely an analogy, whether or not you think it is a valid one. :grin: And it is a valid one, about advancing technology, not that technology will necessarily save the world. (Maybe you should check out the cited article about structural batteries.)

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Aye, I’d make 'em buy an acre of Amazon for every ton of fuel. It’ll be 30 years before they’re running on hydrogen.

Amazon has lots of acres of shipping warehouses, distribution centers. :grin:

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Try as I might, I can’t imagine any technology becoming stronger, lighter, cheaper, more efficient, etc. What an idea.


Thirty years ago, a 100 MB hard drive was a big one.

At NASA they have an old saying. Faster, safer (or better), cheaper. Choose two of the above. Battery technology is nearly 220 years old. Why can’t you run a desktop or bedside clock off its own PV cell? Why can’t you charge your phone from body heat? The only way you’ll be flying to Hawaii in fifty years time is on a hydrogen fuelled jet at quadruple the price.


Nothing new there! And of course, there is no research being done now, either – the science is complete.

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I think that as humans we need to focus on healthier technology. As time goes, we will most likely progressively head in that direction despite the friction some creates. I think the issue is that too many want to jump from 1 to 100. They are like it’s either A or it’s Z. Because C is so close to A they don’t see the need to even bother. But the reality is that to get to Z we must make it through the rest of the alphabet, metaphorically speaking.

For example gas powered landscaping tools are stronger than battery powered. It’s takes a lot more money in many aspects, despite savings in typical fuel line damages and back wintering storage, to run battery powered. With gasoline it’s way easier to just refuel and keep going. I can carry a 5 gallon tank and it lasts me essentially all day running chainsaws, trimmers, leaf blowers and so on. Gasoline is far more compact forms wide range of tools too. It takes a lot of effort and money to drag 10 chargers and batteries from site to site and plug it all in and so on. Takes up a lot of space too. He tools also typically takes a few seconds longer to complete a task.

But that’s ok. You can still realize those truths, snd still commit to exchanging some of that for battery powered. I still do a whole lot of new construction and once it’s framed, dried in and have sheathing we typically pull off for inspection and prior to that we clean up the whole house. We clean the sawdust from the bottom plates between studs and everything. It’s part of our brand in a world where job sites are often extremely trashy. Almost no one run fences around sites and ect… when I was just starting out i did all of that with a broom because there is no power in the houses and I was not running 400 feet of cords from a powerbox throughout the house. As time went I quickly realized I could use a leaf blower for a lot of it. But being in enclosed spaces with fuming loud blowers was annoying. But it worked. Now I have a battery powered leaf blower for that. No fumes, strong enough to do the job, and significantly quieter. I still have three batteries on rotation charging when not in use. Since I’ve bought it snd have been using it for the last 5 years dozens of others have seen it snd switched as well. It’s still no as practical to use for residents driveways where you’re doing 45 houses in a day. But for a single house working there for a few hours doing clean up it works fantastic. Since then they have also came out with improved models for the tool, its chargers and batteries. In a few years when I upgrade it will be a even better tool. As more and more people do this, the tools will be improved until it’s a normal heavy duty landscaping grace tool where 1-2 batteries will last all day and not weigh so much you need a backpack for it.

I imagine it’s the same for airplanes. As this technology improved from things like drills and impacts to chainsaws and leaf blowers to golf carts and cars. In 50 years there will probably be a more more battery powered electric vehicles on the road. The technology will one day be advance enough that there will be f350 super duty electric trucks carry electric man lifts to use electric saws to cut down a entire diseased tree. As thst technology advances it will also be able to be used in airplanes more often. Z may be a ideology at this point, but it will become a reality eventually. But the future generations have a better chance of making so if we keep focusing on moving to B, C and beyond.


Thank you for your practical examples and optimism.


Meanwhile back in the real world, all technology is plateauing and has been for decades. That’s all. Let me know when any breakthrough occurs, you know an order of magnitude is achieved in any. There’s a breakthrough a month now in fusion. But still no power.

Battery history

Lead-acid (as in your car) 1859
Zinc-Carbon 1886
Ni-Cad 1899
Alkaline 1959
NiH2 1977
NiMH 1987
Li 1912-91

Anything anywhere in the pipeline? Coming down the 'pike?

Do let us know.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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