An electric plane has managed a 1,403-mile trip, but is it worth it?

The shift to electrification goes beyond the entire transportation industry. Automakers are all about electric vehicles, but they’re not alone. Recently, an electric plane, the Alia, made headlines and took a trip across the country.

Why is the transportation industry heading towards electrification?

Electric airplane | Getty Images

While consumers are now quite familiar with the shift to electric cars and trucks, most are unaware of efforts to transform other modes of transportation. However, this is preferable for many manufacturers for several reasons.

As consumer preferences have shifted towards environmentally friendly vehicles, manufacturers have followed suit. Attention by consumers, businesses and governments to climate change has prompted new regulations proposed and enacted to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Even the threat of new regulations has prompted many industries to self-regulate. By doing so, they can often mitigate how strict regulations are ultimately enacted.

Beyond changing consumer preferences and awareness of climate change, there has been a growing shift among business leaders to foster social good. This change is not limited to social entrepreneurs. Indeed, many business leaders have redefined their strategic business goals to incorporate sustainability. And while mainstream publications have covered the move to automobiles quite a bit, other transportation manufacturers are also moving in that direction.

Are electric planes the next frontier of electrification?

According to Popular Science, one company, Beta Technologies, is betting that electric planes are indeed the next frontier of electrification. Their new electric plane, the Alia, recently made its first test flight, taking off from Plattsburgh International Airport in eastern New York. It started on Monday May 23 and after seven stops it finally landed on Monday May 30 in Bentonville, Arkansas, a journey of almost 1,500 miles.

On a conventional flight, such a trip should take about 9-10 hours, and not 8 full days. However, this flight was a test flight in real weather conditions. While most of the electric aviation field focuses on short flights so electric planes can be used like Uber, Beta Technologies is investing in the idea that electric planes can be used for longer flights. , especially for freight and parcel delivery.

In addition, the multiple stopovers of this flight were planned in advance. The Alia is a proof of concept that short-term flights of around 150 minutes are viable for electric planes. The Alia’s flights lasted approximately 159 to 211 minutes. Alia’s eight-day, six-state trip didn’t include flights, but also extensive testing and evaluations between flights. The test probably wouldn’t have lasted this long had it not been for a flurry of bad weather from May 24 to 28 that sidelined the aircraft.

What does an electric airplane look like?

Beta Technologies maintains that the test flight showed the Alia did what it intended. And it could well be a precursor to similar short flights in electric planes. In fact, we could be flying over our heads in the not too distant future. If so, you might be wondering how the Alia differs from the conventional aircraft you’re used to.

The Alia operates with a single propeller and two electric motors. The aircraft itself takes off like a conventional aircraft. However, Beta is working on a version that will take off vertically rather than with a diagonal ascent.

It is powered by charging stations, like an electric car. But it can also be charged with a mobile generator. During the flight, Beta testers did. However, since most electric planes are zero emissions, they don’t plan to do so when these planes eventually become suitable for commercial use.

Although an eight-day trip might not sound impressive, the Alia did exactly what its designers intended. In a few years, you might see the familiar blue of Amazon or the brown of UPS trucks in the sky, as well as on the roads.

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