Batteries included: The simplified future of electric flight

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When I think about where we will be in 20 or 30 years in terms of general aviation, it becomes apparent that we will need to be adopters of technology. We have thankfully already seen this shift start to occur in GA. The experimental segment has already been on the cutting edge, with electric flight. And experimentals have led the way in terms of avionics, which change so rapidly you would have to redo your instrument panel at least once a year to stay on top. Certified airplanes aren’t far behind in spite of the regulatory noose around their necks. 

The real future will be all about electric power for our airplanes. The fact is fossil fuels just aren’t a viable long term solution. We need a real breakthrough. A game-changer that will propel, no pun intended, us into the future. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Lycosaurous, but I’m respectful of it’s vulnerability to failure, plus it’s expensive and very heavy.  
 nasa eflight research
Image how our grandkids will cringe at stories about us flying around with highly explosive liquid onboard our airplanes. We don’t think much of it, but in the future this risk will be null and void. Plus electric motors might be so reliable that in the future in-flight engine failures won’t even be a training item – ok I wouldn’t go that far. 
With the escalating costs of flying being almost directly tied to fuel, electric flight will make flying exponentially less expensive – a point that should serve to revolutionize general aviation.
With better safety and lower costs, the major barriers that keep many folks from general aviation will gone. The potential is enormous. 
The way our airplanes are designed are largely tied to the type of powerplants we use. Imagine a world where that big heavy reciprocating engine is gone, replaced by batteries located on the CG and light-weight electric motor(s) located in places never before possible. You can see it already in some of the early electric proof-of-concept aircraft such as the NASA/CAFE Green Flight Challenge winning Pipistrel.

And we have Solar Impulse making its US tour this year. This airplane is powered completely by solar flight and threatens to fly around the world in 2015! 
solar impulse
Each year we see technology leap ahead. As the battery technology comes on line the future will be here before we know it. Look at how portable consumer electronics batteries have changed in the last 5 years. 
Better get ready, the future is coming soon. I think I’ll be putting more electrical outlets in my hangar.
Call sign “Juice” over and out.

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