NASA Invests $43 Million in Electric Planes

The agency came up with a 10-year plan to design and build the next generation of eco-friendly aircraft.

7. 14. 16 by Charmaine Caparas
Futurism M.A
Image by Futurism M.A

Electric Planes for All

NASA has come up with a 10-year plan to design and build the X-Series, a line of environmentally-friendly airplanes. It has already committed $43.5 million through 2020 for the project. The goal is to build a large, hybrid jet that has the potential to be sold commercially in the next decade.

The agency started building a small, entirely electric plane called the X-57, which is set to be completed within the next four years. It will look long and skinny with six electric motors on each of the wings. The plane will be able to fly at 175 miles per hour, but will only have a range of 100 miles.

“We’re designing this airplane specifically for our test demonstration,” Sean Clarke, NASA’s principle investigator on the X-57 project. “But for this tech to make its way to commercial, battery tech needs to improve.”

Image source: NASA

Trial and Error

When the X-57 is finished, NASA will transform a standard aircraft into an entirely electric plane by removing the two cruise motors and add an 800-pound battery.

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NASA will then take that same plane and replace the standard wings with the skinny wing used to fly the X-57 plane for the Phase Three of the X-Series project. The new wing will have electric motors to give the plane some more power.

These are all part of an overall roadmap to build hybrid electric jets that could be sold commercially. It doesn’t have a clear timeline yet, but NASA is aiming to complete that plane in 10 years.

 


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