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Misconceptions of Electric Propulsion Aircraft and Their Emergent Aviation MarketsOver the past several years there have been aircraft conceptual design and system studies that have reached conflicting conclusions relating to the feasibility of full and hybrid electric aircraft. Some studies and propulsion discipline experts have claimed that battery technologies will need to improve by 10 to 20 times before electric aircraft can effectively compete with reciprocating or turbine engines. However, such studies have approached comparative assessments without understanding the compelling differences that electric propulsion offers, how these technologies will fundamentally alter the way propulsion integration is approached, or how these new technologies can not only compete but far exceed existing propulsion solutions in many ways at battery specific energy densities of only 400 watt hours per kilogram. Electric propulsion characteristics offer the opportunity to achieve 4 to 8 time improvements in energy costs with dramatically lower total operating costs, while dramatically improving efficiency, community noise, propulsion system reliability and safety through redundancy, as well as life cycle Green House Gas emissions. Integration of electric propulsion will involve far greater degrees of distribution than existing propulsion solutions due to their compact and scale-free nature to achieve multi-disciplinary coupling and synergistic integration with the aerodynamics, highlift system, acoustics, vehicle control, balance, and aeroelasticity. Appropriate metrics of comparison and differences in analysis/design tools are discussed while comparing electric propulsion to other disruptive technologies. For several initial applications, battery energy density is already sufficient for competitive products, and for many additional markets energy densities will likely be adequate within the next 7 years for vibrant introduction. Market evolution and early adopter markets are discussed, along with the investment areas that will fill technology gaps and create opportunities for the effective, near-term electric aircraft products. Without understanding both the context of how electric propulsion will integrate into the vehicle system, and evolve into the market place it is likely that electric propulsion will continue to be misunderstood.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Moore, Mark D. (NASA Langley Research Center Hampton, VA, United States)
Fredericks, Bill (NASA Langley Research Center Hampton, VA, United States)
Date Acquired
September 18, 2014
Publication Date
January 13, 2014
Subject Category
Aircraft Design, Testing and Performance
Aeronautics (General)
Report/Patent Number
AIAA Paper 2014-0535
Meeting Information
AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting(National Harbor, MD)
Funding Number(s)
WBS: WBS 432938.
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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