Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX and Tesla Motors, is “toying” with the idea of an electric jet. This past month at MIT’s Aeronautics and Astronautics Centennial Symposium, the celebrity entrepreneur spoke briefly on what it would take to build an electric aircraft.
Can we really engineer an electric aircraft? In an article for The Conversation, PhD candidate Ashley Dove-Jay says, yes. A crucial part to any electric vehicle is the battery and as batteries become lighter and more powerful, we can begin to design an electric airliner. With time it will be be feasible.
Given that practical lithium-ion batteries were capable of achieving energy-densities of 113Wh/kg in 1994, 202Wh/kg in 2004, and are now capable of approximately 300Wh/kg, it’s reasonable to assume that they will hit 400Wh/kg in the coming decade.
So in the years to come, we might be seeing another startup incorporated into the Musk repertoire.
In the video, Musk mentions a few other design aspects of his jet; gimbaling motors and removing “unnecessary” parts like tails, rudders and elevators. The jet might not even need a runway. In an interview with Stephen Colbert, Musk said,
I think there’s a real opportunity to have a vertical take-off and landing, electric, supersonic jet.
Some readers might be confused, as was Colbert, with the idea of an electric jet. Musk explains in the interview that the aircraft would use electric motors to drive a fan. This fan would then propel the aircraft. It would not, like Colbert suggests, “shoot sparks out the back.”