Design firm unveils all-electric propeller-powered passenger plane

Futuristic ‘zero-emissions’ electric passenger plane concept with propellers instead of jet engines puts sustainability over speed

  • Concept design from New York firm is for the carbon-conscious frequent flyer
  • The plane swaps jet engines for batteries, electric generators and propellers   
  • Designer JDXP says the plane has ‘sustainability at the core’
  •  But the design would add another 25 minutes for every two hours in the air

A design agency has revealed its concept for an all-electric passenger plane with propellers instead of jet engines.

The ‘Zero’ passenger plane concept, from New-York based JDXP, features an aerodynamic structure, with pin-point sharp nose and long wingspan at the back.

Instead of two carbon-belching jet engines, the plane uses batteries and electric generators, which could be charged by solar panels, and three sets of propellers. 

The vehicle is only a concept, but it’s hoped it will catch the eye of the airline industry as an option for frequent flyers who regularly travel on short-haul trips

The switch from jet engines to electric motors would mean that passengers on the Zero plane would have to travel for longer to reach their destination – an extra 25 minutes for every two hours.

But the design is suited to frequent flyers who don’t mind spending a bit longer in the air to offset their carbon emissions.

‘We’re not breaking the sound barrier, but efficiency is key,’ Joe Doucet, leader of the firm, told Fast Company. 

‘It seems to me there’s both achievable technology, and a desire on the part of travellers to travel better, even if travel takes a bit longer.’

Carbon emissions from plane travel, which are focused in the upper atmosphere, are considered among the greatest contributors to global warming, the company says.

By replacing jet engines with three propellers, the plane’s in-built electric motors allow it ‘to achieve required minimums’ in distance and duration for flight times.

The ‘Zero’ concept features a pointed nose to reduce air drag and wings right at the back to maximise lift at take-off

The longer the flight on the Zero, the greater the additional flight time compared to a standard jet plane, which means the new design is better suited to short haul flights.

Zero’s wings are larger than today’s commercial liners and positioned higher and further back on the body of the plane so that its front naturally points upwards to help take-off.

Doucet said that the plane could also glide back to the ground even if it runs out of power or in the case of a malfunction.

The design firm says their electric plane has been designed for efficiency rather than speed

The company says sustainability is also ‘at the core’ of its in-flight service.

Passengers can therefore expect a menu free from beef burgers or single-use plastics – two other sources of pollution and greenhouse gas emissions – or an in-flight safety video starring Greta Thunberg.

Doucet, who has previously designed playing cards, motorcycle helmets and glassware, is not an aeronautical engineer.

Instead of jet engines, Zero uses electric motors to drive three sets of propellers at the back 

The designer told Fast Company that he doesn’t plan to advance Zero past the concept stage himself, but that it catches the attention of the aerospace industry, or the next Tesla of aviation.

‘At its lowest point of impact, it would make people question, ‘Why aren’t there electric commuter planes?’ he said.

‘At the highest impact, producers of short-haul flights, everyone from Airbus and Boeing to your Bombardiers and Gulfstreams [could realise that] beginning an R&D program might be of medium- and long-term interest to their businesses.’

A concept electric aircraft from Hyundai can carry up to four passengers with a pilot and fly on trips of up to 60 miles (100 km)

Rolls-Royce unwrapped its one-seater jet back in December, revealing a sleek blue and white machine that is set to take flight in 2020

While small electric-powered aircraft date back to the 1970s, larger modern passenger-carrying e-planes are only just starting to advance past the concept stage.

Korean motor company Hyundai and Uber revealed a fleet of electric flying taxis at CES this month, each seating four passengers and capable of travelling up to 60 miles.

The companies think each aircraft, which are manned by a human pilot, could offer an alternative to ridesharing cars in crowded cities.

Luxury car maker Rolls Royce revealed its own zero emission all-electric plane last month, with speeds of 300 miles per hour and a battery pack for 200 miles of flight per charge.

Also last year, Dutch airline KLM unveiled a design for a v-shaped plane that burns 20 per cent less fuel than conventional aircraft.

The bright blue prototype was modelled after Gibson’s ‘Flying V’ guitar and developed by Delft Technical University in the Netherlands.

The International Energy Agency has predicted there will be around 125 million electric vehicles deployed globally by 2030, replacing fuel-powered cars that emit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF THE WORLD’S MAJOR AIR POLLUTANTS?

According to the Environmental protection Agency, there are six major pollutants which can impact on human health and well-being. 

Particulate matter: Particulate matter is the term for a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air.

These particles come in many sizes and shapes and can be made up of hundreds of different chemicals.

Some are emitted directly from a source, such as construction sites, unpaved roads, fields, smokestacks or fires.

Fine particles (2.5 parts per million)are the main cause of reduced visibility (haze) in parts of the United States, including many of our treasured national parks and wilderness areas. 

Carbon monoxide: Breathing air with a high concentration of CO reduces the amount of oxygen that can be transported in the blood stream to critical organs like the heart and brain.

At very high levels, which are possible indoors or in other enclosed environments, CO can cause dizziness, confusion, unconsciousness and death.  

Nitrogen dioxide: Nitrogen dioxide primarily gets in the air from the burning of fuel. NO

It forms from emissions from cars, trucks and buses, power plants, and off-road equipment.

Breathing air with a high concentration of NO can irritate airways in the human respiratory system. Such exposures over short periods can aggravate respiratory diseases, particularly asthma, leading to respiratory symptoms (such as coughing, wheezing or difficulty breathing).   

Sulfur dioxide: The largest source of Sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere is the burning of fossil fuels by power plants and other industrial facilities.

Short-term exposures to SO can harm the human respiratory system and make breathing difficult. Children, the elderly, and those who suffer from asthma are particularly sensitive to effects of SO.

Ground-level Ozone: The ozone layer in the lower area of the lower portion of the stratosphere, approximately 12 to 19 miles above the surface of the planet (20 to 30 km). 

Although ozone protects us against UV radiation, when it is found at ground level it can cause health problems for vulnerable people who suffer from lung diseases such as asthma. 

It is created by chemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC) – that are found in exhaust fumes – in the presence of sunlight.

Lead: Major sources of lead in the air are ore and metals processing and piston-engine aircraft operating on leaded aviation fuel. 

Other sources are waste incinerators, utilities, and lead-acid battery manufacturers. The highest air concentrations of lead are usually found near lead smelters.

 Depending on the level of exposure, lead can adversely affect the nervous system, kidney function, immune system, reproductive and developmental systems and the cardiovascular system.

Infants and young children are especially sensitive to even low levels of lead, which may contribute to behavioural problems, learning deficits and lowered IQ.

Source: EPA 

 

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