June 17, 2014
I have never been a big fan of flying. I have done it before and, if required, I would do so again, but overall I prefer to keep my feet squarely on the ground. It’s not a fear of heights, the thought of crashing, or a dislike of the hassle one has to go through at airport security. It’s not having solid earth beneath me. Even so, I cannot deny how the Wright brothers revolutionized transportation or how planes have helped to make the world feel more connected as a whole. Really, the only problem with planes is the fuel that they consume. Even that might not remain a problem for much longer.
Created by the Airbus Group, the E-Fan is a prototype hybrid electric motor glider that debuted with its first public test flight in April of this year. This remarkable flying machine costs only two cents per hour to fly, thanks to being powered by two batteries that produce 60 kilowatts of power. On that alone, the plane is able to fly for up to half an hour, which makes it perfect for short distance flights. The goal for Airbus group is to create tens or even hundreds of the E-Fan, letting them be designed by schools with apprenticeship programs so that this can help train the engineers of tomorrow while also looking into a new energy storage system so that the E-Fan will be able to make longer trips.
“We cannot afford to stay with the state of batteries today. We need to go much higher in terms of efficiency,” says chief technical officer Jean Botti, according to CNN.
The Airbus Group’s E-Fan is not the only electric aircraft to come into the public eye of late. Recently, a solar-powered craft called the Solar Impulse 2 was showcased by a Swiss due who plan on attempting to fly non-stop for 120 hours without any fuel sometime next year. Made of lightweight carbon fiber, the original Solar Impulse broke numerous aviation records as it succeeded in the first ever solar-powered overnight flight back in 2010, lasting 26 hours.
There is also the Dutch-designed, German-built Antares 23E. This small, electric aircraft has 23-meter wings which allow it to glide for up to 37 miles (60 kilometers) and is able to reach 3,500 meters on a single battery.
All of these aircraft are leading the way for the future of aviation. Imagine a world where you can take a small plane or helicopter to work each day without having to worry about pollution, either via emissions or noise. It sounds like something out of a science fiction tale, but what these energy-saving aircraft are doing is showing us that it is possible. For the Airbus Group, much of this works has been made for the European Commission’s “Flightpath 2050,” which aims to cut down aircraft CO2 emissions by 75 percent and noise levels by 65 percent compared to what they were back in 2000. Overall, these projects aim to lead us to a cleaner, more efficient future high up in the friendly skies, and even someone like me who does not care for flying has to admit that this is a good thing.
Image Credit: Airbus