With the advent of electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft (eVTOLs), the aviation industry is on the brink of a revolution. These aircraft, powered by electric motors and batteries, offer several benefits over traditional airplanes, including environmental sustainability, cost-effectiveness, and the potential for urban air mobility. The concept of air taxis, once a science fiction trope, is now becoming a reality, transforming how we perceive air travel. As we stand on the precipice of this exciting new era, it's worth delving into the details of eVTOLs and the impact they're set to have on the future of air travel.
What to Know About eVTOLs
Electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft use electric propulsion to take off and land vertically (like a helicopter), eliminating the need for extensive runway infrastructure.
This technology is advancing aviation by making it more efficient, convenient and environmentally friendly. The electric motors in these aircraft, particularly those built with high-induction soft magnetic alloys and stacks, have a high power-to-weight ratio, making eVTOL aircraft highly efficient during power-intensive phases like takeoff, hover, and landing. After takeoff eVTOLs transition into an efficient cruise mode, like an airplane. This combination of features makes them ideal for short-range transit in dense urban environments that airplanes are unable to access, and where helicopters have been too disruptive to gain wide popularity.
One of the most notable features of electric aircraft is their quiet operation. Traditional aircraft powered by combustion engines generate a lot of noise due to the explosion of fuel and air mixture in the cylinders and the high-speed exhaust gasses. In contrast, electric motors are virtually silent, with most of the noise generated by the air disturbance from the propellers. This significantly reduces noise pollution, making electric aircraft ideal for urban environments where noise can be a significant issue. Furthermore, using multiple smaller motors and propellers in eVTOLs,
a concept known as distributed propulsion, can further reduce noise levels compared to a single large motor and propeller system.
Electric aircraft also stand out for their reduced maintenance needs, energy efficiency, flexibility in design, and potential for regenerating energy in-flight. With significantly fewer moving parts than combustion engines, electric motors experience low wear and tear, leading to low maintenance costs and high reliability. They are often used in direct drive configurations, eliminating the complexity and weight of a gearbox. Their high energy efficiency results in less energy waste and lower operating costs. The compact and flexible nature of the electric motors allows for innovative aircraft designs, enhancing functionality and efficiency. Lastly, the potential for regenerating energy in-flight could further increase the efficiency of electric aircraft by using the electric motor as a generator during cruise in some aircraft designs.
At Carpenter Electrification, we can help make the motors necessary to achieve these results with Hiperco®, a high cobalt alloy used in stators and rotors. This alloy strikes the essential balance between power and weight for electric motors, providing 30% higher power density and increased motor efficiency by up to 3%. This means an identically sized motor can have 25% higher torque than other alloys, or the same torque and power output can be achieved with a 30% reduced footprint. This is a significant advancement in electric aviation, promising more efficient, quieter, and sustainable air travel.
Things to Consider for Future Impact
As we look toward the future of air travel, several factors must be considered.
Airport Preparations and Charging
Airports and cities will need to adapt to accommodate eVTOLs. This includes the development of infrastructure such as vertiports for vertical takeoffs and landings, as well as charging stations for electric aircraft. The transition to electric aviation will require a significant overhaul of existing airport infrastructure. Still, the benefits of reduced noise pollution, lower operating costs, and environmental sustainability make it a worthwhile investment. New vertiport facilities will open within cities promising quick and convenient access to downtown locations. And in the future existing airports will likely feature dedicated eVTOL landing pads and charging stations, transforming the landscape of air travel. Moreover, the development of fast-charging technologies will be crucial to ensure the efficient operation of these electric aircraft.
Public acceptance of eVTOLs will be crucial for their success. As with any new technology, there will be challenges in gaining public trust. However, the benefits of eVTOLs, such as reduced travel time and environmental impact, are likely to appeal to many. Companies also plan to keep prices low — around the cost of a premium Uber Black car ride. Major airlines like United, American Airlines, and Delta have already invested in eVTOL start-ups to develop this, indicating a growing acceptance of this technology. As more people become aware of the advantages of eVTOLs, public perception will likely continue to improve. Education and awareness campaigns will play a key role in shaping public opinion and fostering acceptance of this new form of air travel.
One of the most significant benefits of eVTOLs is their environmental sustainability. As they are electric, they do not produce carbon emissions during flight, making them more environmentally friendly than conventional aircraft that rely on fossil fuels. This is a significant step forward in limiting the aviation industry's carbon footprint and combating climate change. The shift to electric and hybrid electric aviation, from either a battery or hydrogen energy source, is paramount given the 2% of total greenhouse gas emissions that air travel currently contributes yearly.
Government Laws and Regulations
Government regulations will play a crucial role in developing and deploying eVTOLs. Regulatory bodies must establish safety and operational guidelines for these new aircraft types. This will involve a careful balance between fostering innovation and ensuring passenger safety. As eVTOL technology continues to evolve, so will the laws and regulations governing its use. This will be critical to successfully integrating eVTOLs into mainstream air travel. Collaboration between industry stakeholders, regulatory bodies, and governments will be vital in creating a regulatory environment supporting electric aviation's growth and development.
What is the Future of Air Travel for eVTOL?
As we look to the future, we can expect to see a sky filled with quiet, efficient, and environmentally friendly electric aircraft — largely due to the vast potential applications of eVTOLs. They could serve as air taxis in urban areas, providing a quick and convenient mode of transportation that bypasses ground traffic. Flights will be shorter, averaging around 28 minutes, with one to six passengers and the pilot. Vertiports — the landing pads for eVTOLs — are much smaller than airports and will be located in multiple spots within a city. The benefits of eVTOLS will be most significant in large metropolitan areas with high traffic and frequent gridlock. eVTOLs, due to their unique takeoff and ability to land in remote areas, could also play a significant role in emergency services, providing rapid response capabilities when time is of the essence.
The commercialization of electric aircraft will transform air travel, bringing people worldwide more flexible, convenient, and clean transportation. This includes eVTOL aircraft but also hybrid and full-electric airplanes for regional air mobility (trips between cities serving 15-30 passengers and and covering 250 miles), as well ase-copters. We might even see the advent of flying cars and hoverbikes in the not-so-distant future.
However, electric aircraft will need high-output motors and generators with light weight and compact form factors for large-scale electrification to become a reality. Carpenter Electrification's high-induction Hiperco® alloys give e-motor designers the materials they need to achieve high power density, high torque density, and reduced size and weight. Our advanced stator and rotor stack manufacturing capabilities enable thin Hiperco® laminations, ideal for high-speed motors and generators, ensuring low core loss, continuous power operation, and lower operating temperatures.
Reach Out to Discuss Electric Aircraft
Carpenter Electrification is at the forefront of this revolution, providing industry-leading soft magnetic alloys and stacks to optimize the performance of motors used in electric aircraft. If you're ready to revolutionize flight, our team is here to help address your motor design needs for current and future electric airplanes and eVTOLs.