NASA Is Pioneering the Electric Aircraft
Hello and welcome to your daily ChargeSmart blog! We are back for 2020 and we will be bringing you all the latest news from the EV world.
Previously, we've brought you news about electric tractors, trucks and even ferries along with the obvious cars and bikes. However, this time we’ll be talking about a fully electric plane being developed by NASA. The plane is called the X57 Maxwell. It’s already undergoing simulation test flights at the Armstrong flight research centre while the first plane is being developed. The elephant in the room here is the range. With the best of electric cars currently having a max range of around 500 kilometres, something that wouldn’t quite work with planes as they generally travel longer distances. However, the X57 is a light aircraft so it’s not expected to travel across countries, instead it has a range of 160 kilometres and a maximum flight time of one hour. Reasonable figures for a light aircraft.
The biggest constraint is the battery here because there are aren’t any which are essentially big enough to power a large plane or long-distance flights so this technology is reserved for light aircraft and training aircrafts. However, the biggest benefit for electric planes lies in the fact that they can be used for short distance urban ride sharing. The Uber of the future if you like. Short range electric aircraft can drastically reduce costs for urban travel and bring down the number of cars on the road which means congestion will go down.
Ever charged your phone and then picked it up to find that it was really hot! No, it’s not something specific to your phone but instead it happens to all lithium ion batteries. That was another issue that NASA had to deal with. During research and development, they needed to be certain that the batteries were safe to use and that there was no risk of failure or a fire. The X57 should be ready for manned test flights next year and those tests will help refine the design of the plane. NASA are toying with the idea of wing lengths. The first prototype called Mod 1 has shorter length wings and the motors are mounted close to the plane’s body which helps with stability. NASA aren’t stopping there. The following two prototypes called Mod 2 and 3 will have noticeably longer wingspans. Mod 3 will also have several propellers on each wing to maximize flight time by making turning less strenuous on the bigger propellers.
The whole idea behind the X57 project is for NASA to develop a safe electric aircraft so they can then pass on their research to the aviation authorities and then eventually onto other companies through licensing schemes.