Battery powered aircrafts are viable

Battery powered aircrafts are viable

On the 1st of January 2022, the Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen held her 2022 New-Year speech. One topic mentioned to our pleasant surprise was her vision of all Domestic routes in Denmark to be fossil-fuel-free no later than 2030.

This vision made headlines national and international, and one of the medias looking into it was DR (Danish Broadcasting Corporation), explaining the three (3) different viable solutions to fly fossil-fuel-free, according to DR. Quickly battery powered solutions were skipped, claiming: "Many experts do not believe in battery powered airplanes", despite they can power small aircrafts today. The reporter went on with Hydrogen and Power-to-X solutions as the viable solutions, which has yet to be developed and show their potential in real life in any scale and size.

At Copenhagen Helicopter we agree that Hydrogen and Power-to-X are two great technical solutions, especially for long routes they are probably the answer to replace fossil-fuel due to their fuels energy density ... when it is commercially ready sometime in the future.

Mistake to leave out battery powered aircrafts

But leaving out battery powered aircrafts with a 7 second dismissal comment, visually comparing a 2-seater experimental battery powered airplane with two big airline size aircrafts representing Hydrogen and Power-to-X, not looking into future developments in battery technology when the reporter looked into such futuristic solutions as Hydrogen and Power-to-X, lacks proper proportions in comparison.

Battery powered commercial aircrafts are coming to market

Other than the soon-to-come 2-6 passengers eVTOL's tailored for the AAM market, reality is there are different battery powered aircrafts in development for commercial routes, like:

  • Swedish-based Heart Aerospace 19-seater commuter airplane destined to be operational ready in 2026 with a range of 400 km
  • Israel-based Eviation Alice 9-seater commuter airplane destined for its first test flight February 2022 with a range of 815 km

There are 400 km from Rønne Airport/Bornholm to either Esbjerg or Sindal Airports, two furthest apart airports in Denmark. And as of February 2022, there are 545 Heart Aerospace battery powered commuter airplanes in order/options by different airliners, for example United Airlines.

These two battery powered airplanes will be in service long before any Hydrogen and Power-to-X airplane is airborn.

Even eVTOL and eSTOL aircrafts with room for enough passengers and range to be commercially viable, are expected airborn within the next some 10 years like Lilium's 16-seater eVTOL Jet.

Battery powered aircrafts can fly 50% of all flights

Another perspective to take into account is that approx. 50% of all flights are under 1.100 km (600 Nm) of travel distance. It is estimated that when energy density in batteries reach approx. 800 Wh/kg, an all battery powered airplane can operate these 50% of all flights under 1.100 km. Estimates that is also seen in this report from ACS Energy.

Today's Li-Ion batteries in a Tesla Model 3 car is at approx. 260 Wh/kg and Solid State Li-Ion batteries set to replace the current type of Li-Ion in the coming years, holds 400-500 Wh/kg. In laboratories new chemical designed batteries holds so far up to 750 Wh/kg, so the progress to reach 800 Wh/kg (or beyond) to power many regional- and narrow-body airliners purely with batteries is not happening tomorrow but neither far out in the future.

Cost of running each type of energy source

An open question still seems unanswered: What will the cost be per unit energy needed to run a specific size airplane with Hydrogen or Power-to-X compared to a similarly size battery powered aircrafts, when SWB is set to be the cheapest way of producing energy in 2030, skipping the energy intense conversions and transmissions and transportation of energy that will take place to make Hydrogen or Power-to-X ? - The answer to this remains to be seen, since these two types of energy still has not made it to the commercial market in real life and proved its estimated cost, in contrast to SWB (Solar Wind Battery).

A bonus with battery powered aircraft is that it has no local emissions, which flights using Bio- or Power-to-X fuel still has.

Who will come to market and fulfill the Prime Ministers visions first ?

So what type of fossil-free powered aircraft will be able to fulfill the Danish Prime Ministers goal of flying Domestic fossil-free no later than the year 2030 ?

At Copenhagen Helicopter we believe the past and the present and the facts are quite clear in favor of battery powered flights to get Domestic flights airborn fossil-free no later than 2030.