Air travel contributed to 2.5 percent of global carbon emissions in 2019, which is expected to increase to 3 percent by 2050. While some airlines have begun to offset their carbon emissions, considerable reductions are still required. Electric airplanes may achieve the needed scale of transformation, and several businesses are racing to construct them. Electric propulsion motors would remove direct carbon emissions, but they would also save up to 90% on fuel, 50% on maintenance, and over 70% on noise.

Airbus, Ampaire, MagniX, and Eviation are among the firms developing electric flying. All three are flight-testing aircraft intended for private, business, or commuter flights and are awaiting approval by the United States Federal Aviation Administration. One of the major regional airlines, Cape Air, anticipates becoming one of the first clients, with plans to purchase Eviation's Alice nine-passenger electric aircraft. Cape Air's CEO Dan Wolf has stated that he is interested in both environmental advantages and potential cost reductions. For example, electric motors typically have a longer life expectancy than the hydrocarbon-fueled engines in modern aircraft; they require service after 20,000 hours, compared to 2,000 hours for hydrocarbon-fueled engines.

Not just forward-propulsion engines are getting electrified. For example, NASA's under-development X-57 Maxwell electric plane substitutes conventional wings with shorter ones equipped with a dispersed array of electric propellers. The wings of conventional jets must be big enough to create lift at low speeds, but the enormous surface area adds drag at higher speeds. Electric propellers provide additional lift during takeoff, allowing aircraft thinner wings and increased efficiency.

For the foreseeable future, electric planes will have a restricted range. Today's finest batteries provide far less energy per kilogram than conventional fuels: 250 watt-hours per kilogram against 12,000 watt-hours per kilogram for jet fuel. As a result, the batteries necessary for a particular trip are significantly heavier and take up more space than ordinary gasoline. As a result, by 2025, over half of all trips worldwide will be less than 800 kilometers within the range of battery-powered electric aircraft.

While electric aviation faces cost and regulatory challenges, investors, incubators, corporations, and governments excited about advancing this technology are investing significantly in its development: between 2017 and 2019, approximately $250 million was invested in electric aviation start-ups. As a result, about 170 electric aircraft projects are now active. While most electric airplanes are built for private, business, and commuter travel, Airbus has stated that it intends to have 100-passenger versions ready to fly by 2030.

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