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Do you think electric airplanes will make GA more accessible in Europe?

I kept an eye on what Pipistrel is doing with Electric airplanes and then saw this recent brief look at one of their certified AC for training! which got me thinking.

It may be too early to tell, but I reckon electric planes might have the opposite effect that e-cars have vs e-cars. What I mean is, and this was especially true in the early days of the first electric vehicles, electric cars are now (much) more expensive as an initial cost and people need a much greater range than they currently offer and a cheaper initial cost for e-cars to ever outsell a normal car everywhere in the world.

Getting back to e-planes, especially when training, I’ve found for me that most PPL lessons last about an hour, and gas prices + landing fees and noise restrictions make for a slow and expensive training. Depending on where you train you might not be able to fly when you feel like it due to noise restrictions.

Although I can’t see in the future to have that kind of budget, the Pipistrel plane is interesting to me both as a pilot in training and might even make it easier and cheaper to buy a plane and own it (much lower maintenance cost and hourly cost to run), as people around your flight path might not care as much when your plane is that silent.

So this is where I hope other manufacturers try and make more affordable options, and who knows maybe GA would then become more mainstream in Europe, or not, what do you think?

Switzerland

The Pipistrel plane is a joke as far as actually flying is concerned. It’s an impressive demo of what’s possible, but not to be confused with a flying machine. It has about 30 mins of autonomy. When they demonstrated one here at Cannes they couldn’t fly it Nice, 12 NM away, because it didn’t have enough range! Their concern wasn’t actually range, but fear of needing to hold for airliner arrivals. To fly to Cannes from Aix, 120 km away, they made two stops.

That said, it was probably why Textron acquired Pipistrel, so a good move as far as their investors were concerned. But again not really anything to do with actual flying.

LFMD, France

One fisherman to the other : " What would we do without the sea, then we would have to carry the boats"

Much of the same logic is used by sceptics of electric planes (and cars for that matter). Much too early to tell what the future holds. If all the big emitters of C would be replaced by non emitting stuff, then recreational GA wouldn’t even be a pi$$ in the sea. GA has no impact either way. It’s all symbolism. It’s more about being able to utilize the operational benefits, if any, that are electric planes will have. If low carbon footprint is the only issue, then bio ethanol/diesel could solve it overnight.

ENVA ENOP ENMO, Norway

LeSving wrote:

GA has no impact either way. It’s all symbolism.

I agree, but human nature being what it is (however much we would wish it otherwise), symbolism is important.

ESKC (Uppsala/Sundbro), Sweden

The99percenter wrote:

So this is where I hope other manufacturers try and make more affordable options, and who knows maybe GA would then become more mainstream in Europe, or not, what do you think?

Frankly, no. GA will never be mainstream, at best acceptance may rise a tad. But for that to happen, a lot needs still to be invented. Right now, most electric planes are trainers with totally mediocre endurance. For that it may be of symbolic value and, if it is really quiet, may be a variant for airfields with particularly agressive ecologist folks. But I doubt they will be impressed. They will calculate in no time how many (paste your favorite endangered species/tree/grass/mushroom) will die because of it. Electric planes as well as cars don’t satisfy the “envy” trigger with the green/socialists as the envy part is not satisfied.

LSZH, Switzerland

make GA more accessible in Europe?

Why would it? As others stated, today’s E-flying is a joke for 99% of the GA.
Now, even assuming massive improvements in weight and capacity of batteries, once everybody will be hopefully informed and realise how dirty most electricity is, topped by an exponential demand to cover all market demands, it’s very price is bound to increase…

Coal or gas burning to produce the juice sure ain’t the answer…

Dan
ain't the Destination, but the Journey
LSZF, Switzerland

To be useful in training operations, an airplane needs an endurance of safe 1h30min at cost to peak power (1 hr of yelling with lots of TO/GA and 30min “reserve” to get to any kind of alternate landing field in case the runway gets blocked immediately before the final landing was planned).
Even more important, the time to recharge that 1 hr of flight must not be longer than at most 30 min (the time for the instructor to do the debrief and briefing with the next student). If it takes longer, the school needs two planes instead of one…

Both will be possible in a couple of years, but it still takes some time.

Germany

It’s in no way certain that it’ll be possible in a couple of years. In fact, I think it highly unlikely.

It’s not an aviation issue, it’s a battery issue. To match avgas, someone needs to invent a battery 8-10 times lighter/smaller for a given amount of power than current best technology. To achieve 1hr30min of training use, as you describe, that number is probably 3-4.

Achieving it will require a fundamentally new battery technology. It isn’t going to happen through incremental improvements to an existing technology, like your smartphone getting a bit slimmer each year.

EGLM & EGTN

Indeed; as we discussed endlessly here there are some really fundamental issues with electric propulsion. Even in cars it would not be possible to replace all cars (including ones used for regular long journeys) because even though the cars exist already, the distribution network could not deliver the load. Aircraft are severely limited by battery weight and volume, and airports would not afford the cost of the electrical network extension (of the order of megawatts for a sizeable GA airfield) so there you have two factors to address at the same time.

IF it were possible then the answer to the OP’s question would be affirmative, because you would have a much lower DOC (direct operating cost, which in today’s GA is mostly fuel) and due to less noise there would be fewer environmental and “envy” objections.

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom
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