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Transportation Power

Plans For London-Paris Electric Flight in 'Next Decade' Unveiled (telegraph.co.uk) 90

A start-up has unveiled ambitious plans to offer an electric-powered commercial flight between London and Paris in the next ten years. From a report: Wright Electric believes the proposed low-emission electric plane would offer a cheaper alternative to jet fuel for airlines and consumers. However, the start-up's bid to revolutionize short-haul flights relies on the continued advancement of battery technology. The company, who pitched to investors this week, would be forced to switch to a hybrid of aviation fuel and electricity if the advances in battery technology fail to materialise.
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Plans For London-Paris Electric Flight in 'Next Decade' Unveiled

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  • You know what will happen... I'd rather fly Apple airlines, only 1 type of drink is offered (Apple juice), 1 movie to watch (Pirates of Silicon Valley) & only 1 phone allowed onbaord (iPhone gold members club)

    • by TWX ( 665546 )

      I think for what they'll need the batteries will come out a a really huge factory. A Megafactory if you will.

  • No chance. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HornWumpus ( 783565 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2017 @04:05PM (#54090825)

    They would have to have the airplane largely designed and in early initial prototype to have it certified for commercial service in 10 years. This is pure bullshit seeking dumb investor money.

    I approve: 'A fool and their money were lucky to get together in the first place.'

  • In my experience, planes fly better than plans, so when they turn their plain plan into a plane, then I'll be pleased, but until then, I'll.... plass.

    • by TWX ( 665546 )

      Heh. All my plans are up in the air already...

    • Such things are known in the industry as "paper aeroplanes".

    • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

      How about a more cogent argument. Sure electric planes will be possible, the real problem will be speed. That is of course the speed of the plane itself, this is a real double negative outcome, not only will passengers dislike the slow speed of the plane but it will naturally make it much more expensive. The longer the plane takes to make a flight, the less flights in can make and the greater the impact of that slow flight upon the capital return for that investment. Compare it what will be it's major compe

      • by dbIII ( 701233 )
        People used to think that, so Concorde was built, but it turned out that not very many people thought speed was enough of a problem to actually pay for it.
        London to Paris is less than 350 kilometres.
        Even a plane flying at 350 kilometres per hour or a bit less is going to take less time getting from one to the other than driving a car across either of those cities.
        • by Sique ( 173459 )
          Especially because cars still have problems to cross at least 20 miles of sea, and a bridge does not exist.
          • Especially because cars still have problems to cross at least 20 miles of sea, and a bridge does not exist.

            So these guys ought to try to sell us a bridge instead...
            ... methink, actually they do :-)

          • by dbIII ( 701233 )

            driving a car across either of those cities

            Especially because cars still have problems to cross at least 20 miles of sea, and a bridge does not exist.

            Twenty miles of sea inside Paris? That's in-Seine.

        • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

          You know what is the biggest cost for trains, not the trains it is the tracks. So a smart new business opportunity would be camper train wagon. The Rail companies opening camper parks adjacent to major train links, where people can live in rail campers, a wagon all of their own, one they never need tow, in fact the car can be carried by the same train that is towing their camper.

          New lifestyle for a transient population and it fills empty train tracks with more traffic. Need to shift you rail camper, just b

  • 10 years (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 22, 2017 @04:13PM (#54090879)

    10 years you say?

    Let me consult the chart [xkcd.com].

  • Base it out of Reno. On outwards legs it will carry Tesla Battery packs from the Tesla Reno Battery factory. On inwards legs it will use Jet Fuel. So Battery Packs get delivered to where they are needed while doing something usefull

    • by skids ( 119237 )

      Well, electric motors are unlikely to run very well on jet fuel, and a generator would take up weight.

      But, if they only took passengers on outbound flights, they might be able to limp back on less battery packs than they went out with.

      • Could you build a turbine that runs on flaming batteries? They have CTs that run on powdered coal (at least a % after start).

  • by thinkwaitfast ( 4150389 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2017 @04:36PM (#54091047)
    aviation fuel and electricity as the advances in battery technology fail to materialise for 50, Alex.
    • I'll take: Never gets off the ground, no prototype ever built. Executives at startup pay themselves all the capital and fold the venture.

      • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

        It's never possible, until someone does it.

        • 10 years. Civil aviation.

          Some things are genuinely _impossible_. Other things are obvious scams. This is both.

          • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

            The 10 years is unlikely, not impossible.

            • Look how long it takes an experienced company (Boeing or Airbus) to get a new airplane certified with nothing newer than updated engines and fuselage stretch.

              This company has zero experience and are claiming they will do something new (and impossible with today's batteries). 10 years is _impossible_.

              Which doesn't even start into all the obvious signs of scam.

              If you believe it, don't let me stop you from investing your money. Invest it all, go for it.

  • Short hops on passenger planes might be perfect for batteries now in development. Less noise and less pollution and maybe quite a weight reduction due to not carrying fuel and engines might make quite a difference. I do wonder if a bad landing would be more lethal than in a liquid fueled craft.
    • You should invest your entire retirement savings with them. It's a sure thing.

    • Weight reduction using batteries in airplanes is nowhere on the horizon. Compared to ground vehicle drive trains, jet engines have a great power to weight ratio, and they use no transmission. Replacing a modern jet with a motor and propeller is in itself a step backward.

      On the other hand, airplanes spend a lot of time above the clouds and have a lot of surface area, so perhaps solar panels could provide a measurable range boost on day flights. But I kind of doubt it; solar panels have a terrible power to we

      • jet engines do have several transmissions - generators, fuel pumps and hydraulics have to be powered somehow. some engines even have geared fans.

      • This is dumb to even think about until batteries improve dramatically.
        Actually we already have plenty of electric powered hobbyist air crafts.
        So the "idea" is not dumb. It might be technically not possible to do cost effective electric powered flights in 10 years, but we are pretty close to be able to do that for short range flights.

    • The weight reduction from not having to carry the turbine portion of the engine (you still need to carry the fan part) is *massively* offset by the fact that you carry your "fuel" the entire distance of the trip, 100%. Current planes get more efficient the longer they fly, as they burn off their fuel they get lighter - replace that fuel with a storage system like batteries and your plane is going to weigh as much on landing as it did on takeoff, with no efficiency gains en route, so the energy needed will

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 22, 2017 @04:53PM (#54091175)

    The problem with all battery operated vehicles is that as the batteries get depleted, their mass never changes. With Jet fuel, gasoline, etc, as the fuel gets depleted, the mass is reduced, and thus the energy required to move the vehicle is reduced.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Horseshit. By definition, a charged battery has to 'mass' more than a depleted one.

      Why? Exactly the same reason a compressed spring under tension will 'weigh' more than it does under no compression: E=mc. If there's stored energy there, it has to contribute.

      Granted, it's probably not even measurable outside a laboratory with the right (expensive) equipment... but it's there.

      Which makes the incorrectness of your statement not at all relevant to the subject at hand. Pedantry, ho!

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      The problem with all battery operated vehicles is that as the batteries get depleted, their mass never changes. With Jet fuel, gasoline, etc, as the fuel gets depleted, the mass is reduced, and thus the energy required to move the vehicle is reduced.

      True, but it's hardly like a rocket where only a tiny fraction of the launch weight reaches the destination. The specs for the 747-400F (freight version) says 164 ton dry weight, 124 ton capacity, 397 ton takeoff weight. So max'ed it's (164+124)/397 = 73% plane and cargo, 27% fuel. The benefit of reduced weight will be on a weak exponential but if we round up 27%/2 to an average 15% lower fuel consumption compared to a plane that was constantly refilled by a tanker we've probably been generous. So if we cou

    • by GuB-42 ( 2483988 )

      It is awfully true for rockets, not so much for planes.
      After a quick calculation, it appears that only about 1% of the fuel is converted into kinetic and potential energy. Which meant that 99% of it is used to overcome drag. Drag is a function of speed, surface area, air density, and the shape of the plane, not its mass.
      Rockets are another matter entirely. That's because fuel is used as a reaction mass. As a result, they are constrained by momentum, which is why we need ridiculously large rockets to launch

      • I think it's still present, at least in the form the tipping point for decreasing fuel consumption per unit of range, at about 3000 nautical miles or so.
    • by cyn1c77 ( 928549 )

      The problem with all battery operated vehicles is that as the batteries get depleted, their mass never changes. With Jet fuel, gasoline, etc, as the fuel gets depleted, the mass is reduced, and thus the energy required to move the vehicle is reduced.

      Yeah, that's a small factor for air-breathing vehicles.

      But you missed the big point, which is that the oxidizer is not being carried at all.

      This is good because you usually need a lot (of moles) of oxidizer for each mole of fuel.

  • Just launch the aircraft into the upper atmosphere from a railgun catapult built up the side of a mountain. Then it could use electricity generated by the propellers during descent to move the control surfaces.

    • I think a magnetic launch assist for commercial jets would be a fantastic idea. Jets can burn 40% more fuel during take-off than during cruise, and they're going a lot slower while doing it. A nice push to get them started wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.

      Maybe even use a proper rail and have a launch cradle you can position under the plane so it can ride 'gear up'.

      It'd be interesting to look at a cost/benefit analysis of such a system.

  • Didn't they build the chunnel [wikipedia.org] so electric trains could make that run? Seems silly to try and compete on that particular route.
    • No they built the train to tow the electric glider into the air
    • Yes, and the Eurostar runs several daily Paris to London runs and it's a pretty short trip at around 2-1/2 hours. I can't see how an electric plane in 10 years could compete with an electric train that already exists.

  • I don't know the answer to this, so please be gentle. What about using hydrogen fuel cells for airplanes? The big problem with hydrogen fuel cells is that they require energy to breakdown water and different tubes for refueling. On the upside, it's high density chemical energy and you could safely jettison all of it before a crash which would save lives since (to my knowledge) the majority of fatalities in (survivable) plane crashes are from smoke inhalation from burning jet fuel.

    Since power can be deriv

    • The power density of present day fuel cells isn't very high. Power density is very important for aircraft because carrying extra weight uses more fuel. Its surprising but old fashioned aircraft piston engines are more efficient than modern jets (eg, more power produced per fuel burned). Modern planes use jets because they are very much lighter for the same power, so the overall aircraft efficiency is better (and the planes can fly faster).

      I remember seeing design studies of hydrogen fueled aircraft wher

      • that is comparing apples to oranges. a turboprop flying the same speed is more efficient than a piston engine aircraft.

        • The turboprop aircraft is more efficient, the turboprop engine is less efficient when you remember that kerosene is higher density than gasoline but its pretty close. The Wikipedia link doesn't have recent engines of either type, but gives a hint: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

          My copy of Raymer (Aircraft design, a conceptual approach) gives a typical specific fuel consumption for a turbo prop as 0.5lb/hr-hp, and 0.4 for a piston. The detailed charts I have for a modern light aircraft piston engine (IO55

          • At higher altitudes turboprops should be also more efficient as an engine because piston engines either lose power to the supercharger or to the less dense air.

            • That's probably true, I don't know much about piston engines at high altitude because they are rarely used there. A supercharger does lose energy. I think in principal a turbocharger doesn't lose energy, but in practice the intercooler is inefficient (throws away energy). I don't know how that balances against the higher combustion temperature in a piston engine.

              I guess in some ways a turbo-compounded engine (supercharger and expansion turbine coupled to the main drive) smoothly blends into a turboprop

  • If this thing ever comes to pass. I hope they break up the battery in smaller sizes and distribute them throughout the plane. I can't imagine the horror of a single huge battery hitting something on a crash landing.
  • by trawg ( 308495 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2017 @05:57PM (#54091623) Homepage

    This sounds great although I'm pretty sure my teleport startup will cut into their margins significantly. We will be offering London to Paris trips that are instant and cost only a few dollars.

    We're just waiting for the technology to get us across the line but we've done a lot of thinking about the business model and we're pretty confident!

    (BBC journalists feel free to call)

  • There is already an electric train between Paris and London that takes between 2:16 and 3 hours + 30 min checkin time: The Eurostar [eurostar.com] through the channel tunnel.

    As a rule of thumb, any train journey faster than five hours is faster from city-centre to city-centre than getting on a plane.
    That is because there is so much time overhead before and after the actual plane ride - most of all, the journey to and from the airports.
    The only benefit for taking this plane would be if you would change to another plane at

Karl's version of Parkinson's Law: Work expands to exceed the time alloted it.