The world’s largest all-electric plane passed a short test flight with flying colors last week.
The plane, a Cessna Grand Caravan 208, was retrofitted with an electric motor and flew for a half hour after its first-ever takeoff, Tech Xplore reports. While there’s a long way to go before the aviation industry stops depending on fossil fuels, the test is an important first step toward cleaner skies.
For now, the plane can carry a pilot and nine passengers, according to Tech Xplore. Aside from regulatory hurdles that the newly-forming electric plane industry will need to navigate, larger planes will also require energy storage devices more powerful than any scientists can make today.
“The challenge is that batteries are not as power potent as fuel,” Roei Ganzarski, CEO of the electric motor manufacturer Magnix, told Tech Xplore. “We chose lithium ion, because at this stage, it’s the most proven technology or proven chemistry to provide the energy and safety that we need to fly the aircraft.”
But once energy storage technology catches up, Ganzarski expects electric planes to not only cut out a major source of carbon emissions, but to make air travel cheaper as well.
That’s because electric motors, compared to conventional plane engines, are far simpler from a mechanical standpoint. That could mean as much as an 80 percent drop in maintenance costs, which would hopefully translate into cheaper tickets and more flights to smaller airports as well.
READ MORE: Groundbreaking all-electric plane paving way to greener aviation [Tech Xplore]
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