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  The Herman Trend Alert

April 19, 2017

Electric Planes Coming

Last month, President Trump talked about ending US automobile CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards, which would mean the end of electric cars. Shortly thereafter, we discovered that electric planes are on the way. And more than one company is working on them.

London to Paris: electric flights on easyJet
Within 10 years, the start-up airline easyJet plans to launch electric-powered, passenger flights from London to Paris. Working with the UK company Wright Electric, the airline plans to develop a plane for 150 passengers. The cooperation between the two companies is "actively providing an airline operator's perspective on the development of this exciting technology". Wright Electric's goal is to transform all short-haul flights to electric-powered within the next 20 years; short-haul flights represent about 30 percent of all airline flights worldwide.

Proven technology
The US inventor Chip Yates, whose own electric aircraft, the Long-ESA, holds the world record for fastest electric aircraft, is providing the technology.

Other manufacturers onboard as well
Since 2014, Airbus has been developing an electric two-seater aircraft and the manufacturer plans to create its own short-haul electric aircraft seating 70 to 90 passengers. Moreover, another aerospace firm, Zunum Aero in Kirkland, Washington announced recently, it is developing electric planes to carry passengers on regional commercial flights of up to 1,000 miles. Zunum Aero is working with Boeing's HorizonX division, its arm that invests in innovative technology, and JetBlue Technology Ventures. The purpose is to develop 10- to 50-seat aircraft for flights that could be scheduled as soon as the early 2020s. Their worthy goal is to reinstate flights to smaller airports that lost service during the last 30 years.

Zunum's goal: get people out of their cars and back on airplanes
In spite of flying lower and slower than aircraft, Zunum's execs expect to cut airfares and travel times in half with more-efficient planes flying mostly out of general-aviation airports. (General aviation airports typically host private and corporate jets.) With specially designed cabins, passengers would be able to carry their luggage straight from their cars to the planes, rather than pass through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints. (We're not sure how that would work---or for how long.)

Only the beginning
Just as electric cars are helping to conserve fossil fuels, so do electric aircraft have tremendous potential for reducing our carbon emissions. Expect to see electric planes. within five to seven years, replacing the Bombardiers, the Embraers, and the Canadairs on regional flights. The reductions in cost and overall travel time will be a welcome development.


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