The plight of the electric aircraft

See attached. © iStock/Rathke

For several years, various companies have been attempting to produce a commercially viable electric powered aircraft. However, due to funding and practical constraints a myriad of companies have been unsuccessful in creating an affordable battery powered fixed wing aeroplane.

Zunum Aero, a Washington D.C based aircraft company, are one of the unfortunate ones. The company are facing serious financial trouble. This is believed to be because of an overly aspirational team.

Zunum Aero “jumped too high” as they began designing and creating large hybrid planes instead of starting small with less complicated aircraft.

Due to this lack of foresight, Zunum Aero are reportedly running out of funds resulting in the shutdown of their headquarters in Bothell, Washington. Such shut down has resulted in almost all of it’s 70 employees losing their jobs.

IDTechEx CEO Raghu Das has great concerns for developments in companies creating electric powered aircraft staying afloat. He said: “We believe that pure electric VTOL will eventually be a great success. Uber has deep pockets and realistically long timescales for such aircraft, knowing they have huge hurdles to overcome. That includes batteries currently unable to provide long enough endurance for good margins of safety, particularly over a city, radical changes needed to air traffic control, to regulations and more. Technical options are constrained. For example, some fixed-wing pure electric aircraft are approaching five hours 1000km endurance while VTOL too often means one hour, a wish and a prayer. These problems take a long time to solve. For example, solar airframes make sense for longer range fixed-wing aircraft but not VTOL. Very patient investors are hard to find and most VTOL developers would be wise to learn from companies such as Bye, Ampaire and those converting seaplanes to electric and walk before they try to run.”

Zunum Aero’s aircrafts that are intended for regional transit are now priced at €45m which is €22.5m more than its competitor, Bye Aerospace.

Bye Aerospace are currently successfully developing a fixed wing aircraft.

In one year of business Bye Aerospace have generated €148.6m of interest in it’s lithium-ion battery powered aircrafts.

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