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Comparative Assessment of Electrification Strategies for Aviation

Project Number: 052
Category: Aircraft Technology Innovation, Emissions, Alternative Fuels

All-electric battery-powered aircraft offer the potential to eliminate the direct combustion emissions associated with aviation. Development efforts for such aircraft are under way especially for regional and short-haul missions. For long-haul flights with large energy requirements, the specific energy and power capabilities of available battery technologies currently limit the feasibility of all-electric aircraft at airliner-scale. An alternative means of using electricity to power aviation are fuels produced from electricity. For example, electricity can be used to convert carbon (e.g., atmospheric CO2 or carbon from biomass) and hydrogen (from electrolysis) into liquid drop-in electrofuels. In addition, cryogenic non-drop-in fuels (e.g. hydrogen) can be produced from renewable sources.

The goal of this project is to quantify the costs, emissions and resulting impacts of different electrification approaches for commercial aviation. The electrification pathways considered range from all-electric aircraft on the one hand to hybrid aircraft, turbo-electric aircraft or conventional aircraft powered by fuels produced from electricity on the other.

Outcomes

The anticipated outcomes of this project include:

  • A suite of roadmaps for aircraft electrification, including electrofuels
  • Analyses of aircraft concepts optimized for different electrification approaches
  • Assessments of costs, emissions and resulting impacts of different aircraft electrification approaches, including electrofuels
  • Identification of most promising electrification approaches (including electrofuels) for different use cases (e.g. long-haul vs. short-haul)

Last Updated 3/31/2020

Program Managers