October 16, 2015

Elon Musk sees a future of all electrically powered transportation including supersonic passenger jets

Elon Musk likes the idea of an electric aircraft company. He believes a supersonic, vertical take-off and landing electric passenger jets are possible. He has a design in mind for that.

Elon believes that Aircraft and ships, and all other modes of transport, will go fully electric - not half electric, but fully electric. The only mode of transportation that will not go electric is rockets.

Battery efficiency is growing about 8 percent annually, according to Manghani. Prices are expected to drop 50 percent in the next two to three years, says Sam Wilkinson, research manager for solar and energy storage at IHS Technology.

Richard Lugg is the man behind the HyperMach [Mach 4 cruise] SonicStar supersonic business jet concept. HyperMach's design has supersonic laminar flow, plasma drag and boom reduction, and superconducting electric propulsion. Lugg’s name appears on a new US patent (8,636,241, filed in 2006) for a hybrid jet/electric VTOL aircraft.

Elon Musk, the billionaire behind PayPal and SpaceX, has suggested that his next big project could be a supersonic vertical take-off passenger jet.

There is battery technology which would greatly increase the energy density (watt hours per kilogram) of batteries. This will make the supersonic electric passenger plane feasible.

There was a design of vertical takeoff and vertical passenger electric planes. Also, Elon Musk has talked about creating a supersonic certical takeoff and vertical landing electric passenger plane. This would enable airports without runways to be in cities. The design was based upon batteries that had 1000 wh/kg and superconducting engines that had 7-8 kw/kg.

Before 2020 it would seem we are on track for volume production of lithium sulfur, lithium seawater and other forms of high energy density batteries (600 wh/kg to 1500 wh/kg).

The superconducting engines seem to be farther away but appear to be feasible. Superconducting wire will be scaling up production and getting to lower cost over the next few years and continuing to improve in production volume and costs over the next decades. In 20 years, the superconducting engines with 7-8 kw/kg or better could be achieved.

The commercial status of superconductors for various applications was reviewed for a 2013 conference in Spain.

All Superconducting motors could be three times smaller

Next Generation More-Electric Aircraft: A Potential Application for HTS Superconductors

Superconducting generators have already been demonstrated to exhibit power densities in the range of turbine engines thus validating the feasibility of future ultra lightweight machines for airborne applications.

Distributed Multi-Fans Driven by Few Engine Cores

Distributed propulsion employing multiple propulsors driven by a few fuel-efficient engine cores has been studied and is being pursued under NASA’s SFW N+3 project

* Gas-Driven Multi-Fans
* Gear-driven Multi-Fans
* Electrically Driven Multi-Fans

The following possible benefits of distributed propulsion concepts have been identified through various studies mentioned in previous section:

• Reduction in fuel consumption by ingesting the thick boundary layer flow and filling in the wake generated by the airframe with the distributed engine thrust stream.

• Spanwise high lift via high-aspect-ratio trailing-edge nozzles for vectored thrust providing powered lift, boundary layer control, and/or supercirculation around the wing, all of which enable short take-off capability.

• Better integration of the propulsion system with the airframe for reduction in noise to the surrounding community through airframe shielding.

• Reduction in aircraft propulsion installation weight through inlet/nozzle/wing structure integration.

• Elimination of aircraft control surfaces through differential and vectoring thrust for pitch, roll, and yaw moments.

• High production rates and easy replacement of engines or propulsors that are small and light.

Next Generation More-Electric Aircraft: A Potential Application for HTS
Superconductors (14 pages, 2008]
Fully superconducting machines have the
potential to be 3 times lighter.

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