Electric Planes Could Provide Eco-Friendly Flight

You make sure to recycle, you buy organic, and you ride your bike to work on sunny days. But all those greenie points you stockpile in your daily life get spent when you set foot on a plane: hopping a flight from New York’s JFK Airport to LAX International in Los Angeles creates a shocking 965 pounds of carbon emissions—per passenger. After returning home, you’d need to plant five trees to restore your carbon-neutral balance.

But take heart: you may soon have a solution for flying without feeling eco-guilt. Electric airplanes are on their way.

Engineers have been tinkering with electric motors for planes, which are significantly more energy-efficient, more reliable, and much quieter than today’s internal combustion engines. Because electric aircrafts are so quiet, they should be able to take off and land much closer to communities than the roaring jetliners we’re used to.

“We’re exploring the concept of pocket airports, maybe lots of them, each just two acre parcels, that you can take, say, at 150 mph to another pocket airport,” Brien Seeley, president of the Comparative Aircraft Flight Efficiency (CAFE) Foundation, told TechNews Daily. “It’s a transformative concept.”

The main hold-up preventing electric planes from becoming commonplace is the issue of battery life. Electric batteries are typically quite heavy, which could inhibit flight. But engineers are also developing new, lightweight battery packs that can charge a plane for a flight of up to 200 miles. One company, Nanosolar, is also trialing flexible solar panels that attach to the plane’s wings, and can recharge the battery during flight.

So odds are good that before long, you may have the chance to hop a ride on an electric plane and fly the friendly green skies.

Want to get a look at how an electric plane might work? Check out inventor Randall Fishman’s mini-model in action.

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