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Wright Electric, an electric aircraft manufacturing startup based out of Massachusetts, debuted its idea for an all electric 150-seat plane at Tuesday’s Y Combinator W17 Demo Day in Silicon Valley as part of the globally famous incubator (which was co founded by Paul Graham) bi-annual showcase of it’s ever exciting new startups. The ambitious aim is for commercial passenger planes totally powered by electricity to be in the air within the next decade, which obviously depends on battery technology advancements.
The startup hopes to take over the market in short-haul flights, such as London to Dublin or Belfast to Birmingham, and announced a potential partnership with budget airline EasyJet, who interestingly are one of the market leaders of those short haul routes.
In a blog post a week before Demo Day, the Wright Electric already hinted at the EasyJet deal and said that a “high net worth individual wants our electric 150-seater as his fifth private jet. Woo hoo!” from that clue, perhaps Stelios may well have visions of “EasyElectric” Jets and knowing how he loves a trademark with easy at the beginning, ready to be white letters on the famous orange background, I would imagine it or something very similar has already been filed.
Wright Electric says 30 percent of flights are short haul and under 300 miles, which should make it an ideal fight distance for the battery-operated concept in the coming years. They were also very transparent about what will need to happen to make their idea a reality. The plane’s shape and design won’t be anything revolutionary since, according to Wright Electric, those components have already been mostly perfected.
It’s the battery technology that will power the plane that needs to come together in the next decade. The startup talked about a potential hybrid electric motor if battery advances don’t continue on pace like they have for the past century.
As always with plans for revolutionary innovation some experts are very skeptical about the startups plans. Graham Warwick, an aviation expert from Aviation Weekly commented, “The battery technology is not there yet.”
“It’s projected to come but it needs a significant improvement,” he added. “Nobody thinks that is going to happen anytime soon. And there’s all the [safety] certification – those rules are yet to be created, and that takes time.”
However, the company remains optimistic, and has been working with Chip Yates, who clocked the longest electric flight recorded at about 1,000 miles.
Also on display at the demo event was one of the startup’s smaller two-seater planes which is already powered by an electric battery.
It will be exciting to see if in the next 10 years if Wright Electric or other startups can make electric commercial passenger planes a reality, no doubt it will be a much more environmentally friendly option for my flights to and from Ireland.
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