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Part two in an analytical series examining the future of electric flying, away from the unrealistic hype and the reflexive naysayers.
- The current generation of all-electric aircraft brings the promise of reduced operating costs, however, full comparisons with less acknowledged costs show disappointing results.
- In a complete direct operating cost comparison, the new, small electric aircraft will, at best, match the economics of older, traditional turboprops.
- While all-electric commercial flight creates real excitement for its zero carbon emissions, the limited size and range allow for replacing very few aircraft, resulting in minimal reduction in emissions in the immediate future.
- The potential of coming hybrid aircraft technologies highlights a different strategic path, offering diverse and incremental benefits to a larger market with the same objective as all-electric flight.
There is a price for everything. Low-cost airlines proved this by opening air travel to new demographics with the promise of low fares. Ultra-low-cost airlines proved it again — fares dropped, markets grew. Certainly, much of this growth in air travel was enabled through more efficient airlines and advancements in technology. As the cost of travel declined, the price of a ticket followed, attracting an expanding population to the skies.
Amid the swath of disruptive propulsion technologies being presented, battery-powered electric aircraft are nearest to arrive, offering promises of significant cost savings and new market potential. However, these all-electric prototypes are also limited to the smallest aircraft in the commercial fleet — a gauge of aircraft in continual decline as average aircraft sizes continue their growth.
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