Hey tech enthusiasts at Geekinsider.com, get ready to nerd out over some shocking news from the Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden. The smart cookies there pulled off the first-ever life cycle assessment pitting a two-seater electric aircraft against a fossil fuel one. The results? In the battle of green versus gasoline, electric soars high!
With the help of green electricity, the electric aircraft outshines its fossil fuel rival in climate impact just within a quarter of its lifespan. But, there’s a twist. Increased mineral resource scarcity is quite the speed bump on this road to sustainability.
Aviation is a major environment offender, with 2% of global CO2 emissions and 4% of all climate impacts annually. The winds of change have started blowing though, with the electrification of aircraft being a promising solution. Our researchers zeroed in on small battery-powered electric aircraft, currently used for pilot training and short flights. They compared it with the fossil fuel equivalent, using their Iron Man-like “Pipistrel Alpha Electro” as the electric knight in armor.
Their life cycle assessment covered all bases – global warming, mineral resource scarcity, particulate matter formation, acidification, and ground-level ozone formation. The verdict? Small electric aircraft can sport a superhero cape with up to 60% less climate impact. But, on the villain side, these bring a 50% increase in mineral resource scarcity due to the rare metals in their batteries.
Sure, the electric aircraft initially leaves a larger carbon footprint because of the resources and energy used in battery production. Yet, as it clocks more flight hours, it starts to flex its emission-free muscles. By the time it hits 1,000 flight hours, it has passed the fossil fuel aircraft in the climate impact race. And remember, the lifespan of the aircraft is a whopping 4,000 hours!
The future looks bright with strides in battery development having a huge part to play in decreasing electric aircraft life cycle impacts. Emerging battery tech like lithium-sulfur could be the game-changer, reducing both climate impacts and mineral resource scarcity. Powered by green electricity, these electric whizzes can push aviation toward environmental friendliness.
The whole study, featuring the electric superstar Pipistrel Alpha Electro with its 21 kWh NMC lithium-ion battery and 60 kW motor, was published in The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment. The runner-up was a fossil fuel aircraft with identical structure but powered by aviation gasoline. So, with the electric motor and batteries, our clean energy champ flew high in this aviation contest.