You can buy an electric car. Ideally, we'll soon start seeing the wonderful powers of electricity—and all the clean benefits associated with it—hitting the trucking industry as well. So why not a plane?
As reported by The New York Times, NASA is officially developing an experimental electric airplane that could help cut operational costs by 40 percent or so compared to a similarly sized, jet-fuel-guzzling aircraft. The plane itself could also be a quieter than a traditional aircraft. But before you start dreaming of all the comforts a Tesla-style plane might bring to flying, know that there are a few key issues that researchers still have to work out.
First up, batteries take up a lot of space. So much so, that the X-57 plane NASA is currently developing will require around 800 pounds of batteries or so just to work. Stuffing these in the plane requires NASA to eliminate all seats but the pilot's. And even with all that juice, the plane can allegedly only fly for about one hour or so—and you definitely don't want to be stuck in a holding pattern when the batteries go out.
NASA's initial research would only really benefit smaller aircraft at first: commuter planes or aircraft for general aviation, not huge, sprawling jetliners that run coast-to-coast flights. That's not to say that the technology couldn't get there someday, but don't expect that NASA's work will allow millions to start flying on electric planes over the next few years.