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Technological, economic and environmental prospects of all-electric aircraft

Schäfer, A; Barrett, SRH; Doyme, K; Dray, L; Gnadt, AR; Self, R; O'Sullivan, A; ... Torija, AJ; + view all (2018) Technological, economic and environmental prospects of all-electric aircraft. Nature Energy , 4 pp. 160-166. 10.1038/s41560-018-0294-x. Green open access

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Abstract

Ever since the Wright brothers’ first powered flight in 1903, commercial aircraft have relied on liquid hydrocarbon fuels. However, the need for greenhouse gas emission reductions along with recent progress in battery technology for automobiles has generated strong interest in electric propulsion in aviation. This Analysis provides a first-order assessment of the energy, economic and environmental implications of all-electric aircraft. We show that batteries with significantly higher specific energy and lower cost, coupled with further reductions of costs and CO₂ intensity of electricity, are necessary for exploiting the full range of economic and environmental benefits provided by all-electric aircraft. A global fleet of all-electric aircraft serving all flights up to a distance of 400–600 nautical miles (741–1,111 km) would demand an equivalent of 0.6–1.7% of worldwide electricity consumption in 2015. Although lifecycle CO₂ emissions of all-electric aircraft depend on the power generation mix, all direct combustion emissions and thus direct air pollutants and direct non-CO₂ warming impacts would be eliminated.

Type: Article
Title: Technological, economic and environmental prospects of all-electric aircraft
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1038/s41560-018-0294-x
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41560-018-0294-x
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Energy and society, Energy science and technology, Engineering, Environmental sciences
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment > Bartlett School Env, Energy and Resources
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10063877
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