Norway’s first all-electric battery-powered plane crashed into a lake on Wednesday. The crash poses a step back in Norway’s attempt to reduce fossil fuel-powered flights. Known as the Alpha Electra G2, the plane is owned by Norway’s airport operator, Avinor and was being operated by their chief executive, Dag Falk-Petersen when the crash occurred. On the same day, the CEO of Avinor was also giving tours to members of the Norwegian government, which also included junior government minister Aase Marthe Horrigmo at the time of the crash. There were no injuries to either passenger.
Norway’s electrically powered aircraft could be a major step back in the countries aim to have domestic flights electrified by 2040. (Image Credit: NTB Scanpix/Hakon Mosvold Larsen via REUTERS)
The crash is a major setback for Norway’s plans to use electrically powered planes in the future. Falk-Petersen said his goal was to have passenger flights in electric planes by 2025, while every domestic flight would be electrified by 2040. There are some uncertainties at this point to the cause of the crash, but power failure is to blame. The pilot noted he lost all power from the engines as he was arriving at his destination, the airport, to carry out a safe landing. He also estimated the plane was going as fast as 43 mph when it crashed into the water.
Norway is also the preferred country to test electric flights. They are already the best country when it comes to electric car sales. Their remote islands and fjords also result in their air routes being one of the busiest in Europe, which means it has a large short-haul domestic flight market that can be electrified in the future. Their electricity originates from hydropower, an environmentally friendly source that accounts for 98 percent of Norway’s electricity.
Pipistrel manufactured the Alpha Electra G2, and it’s the first electrically powered aircraft to have approval for commercial production. However, it can fly as far as 81 miles and can only sustain one hour of flight time. Norway began testing the aircraft just last year. Transport Minister Ketil Solvik-Olsen said, "This is ... a first example that we are moving fast forward. We do have to make sure it is safe -- people won't fly if they don't trust it." If Norway wishes to meet their goals, they will need to regain some of that trust.
However, electrifying all planes can be quite difficult. When comparing batteries to jet fuel, it’s clear that jet fuel comes out as the winner due to batteries being so heavy, causing it to pose a challenge to install in a plane with just enough power to get in the air without it being weighed down. Jet fuel gives more energy to a plane – it provides up to 43 times more energy. Several companies are also working to find a solution to these issues while reducing the need for aircraft to rely on fossil fuels. This includes companies like Lilium, a small Garman air taxi startup, which delivered its first test of its five-seat aircraft earlier this year. Their electrical power plane has an oval-shaped cabin perched on landing gear with two parallel tilt-rotor wings, fitted with 36 electric jet engines that tilt for vertical take-off and move forward for horizontal flight. The jet will have a range of 186 miles and will be able to go as fast as 186 mph. Other well-known companies like Airbus and Boeing are also making contributions to reduce fossil fuels in aircraft.
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