Tesla Dry Electrode Batteries Will Enable Large Passenger Electric Planes

Elon Musk indicates that electric motors and batteries with over 400 Wh/kg will be able be a cross over point for electric planes against jet fuel planes.

Israeli startup Eviation is making a nine-passenger all-electric regional passenger aircraft by 2021. It will take 9 passengers up to 650 miles at a cruise speed of 240 knots.

Alice uses distributed propulsion with one main pusher propeller at the tail and two pusher propellers at the wingtips to reduce drag, create redundancy, and improve efficiency.

Alice will cost at least four times less per passenger-mile and it can also operate as a drone to transport cargo or to reposition the plane for its next scheduled flight.

Vastly improved batteries could enable all-electric passenger planes for 50-200 passengers and longer ranges. There are many companies working on electric passenger planes.

Tesla completed the purchase of Maxwell Technologies which will give Tesla higher energy density batteries, lower costs for batteries, double battery life and will allow battery factories to have 16 times the production in the same space.

Tesla bought Maxwell Technologies for their dry battery technology. Maxwell has already proved 300 Wh/kg energy density is which 20-40% better than current Tesla batteries. Maxwell has a path with 15-25% improvement every 2-3 years. This should lead to 500 Wh/kg by 2027.

Tesla might be able to get 385 Wh/kg in batteries in 2020.

Tesla could reach $50 per kilowatt-hour with 500 Wh/kg. This would mean half the weight in batteries while producing the same level of energy as the best 250 Wh/kg batteries of today. This would mean $4000 instead of $12000 in batteries for an 80 kWh battery pack.

Maxwell had a 15-page investor presentation from January 16, 2019 from the 21st Annual Needham Growth Conference.

Solid State Batteries Can Compete on Energy Density But Are Six to Ten Years Away

Panasonic has said solid state batteries are ten years away. Volkswagen thinks they can get them by 2025. Fisker has delayed solid-state batteries from 2020 to 2022.

48 thoughts on “Tesla Dry Electrode Batteries Will Enable Large Passenger Electric Planes”

  1. Electric planes are as heavy when they land as when they take off.
    A good pilot can account for this, though.

  2. If electric aircraft get off the ground (SWIDT!) then my guess is that they’ll do so because of airport restrictions.
    Many, many airports, probably the majority if you weight by traffic, are restricted in terms of what hours they can operated because the noise.

    • Electric aircraft can (if designed with such in mind) be quieter than IC aircraft. (Lots of low velocity props using distributed power, rather than a couple of high velocity props or jets.)
    • Even if they aren’t actually quieter, the general population will believe they are. People may even insist that they are quieter in the face of empirical evidence: “emperor’s new clothes” style.

    Second point, air pollution. Once the electric aircraft is an option (or even looks like being one), then how long before various cities start passing regulations giving huge advantages in terms of landing fees or operating times to the “clean” aircraft.
    Are the governments of London or San Francisco going to hesitate a second after someone (who may or may not be working for an electric aircraft company) publicizes the issue?

  3. I seem to remember the Uber Elevate guys showing off a MW class charger plug/cable, which was rumored for use with the megachargers expected to underlie Tesla’s semi truck recharger network. The plug was fairly large, and I believe water cooled. The current semi prototypes cheat by using multiple superchargers concurrently via an adapter cable.

  4. The latter is proof that not even piloted planes are safe when instruments fail and pilots make mistakes.
    I think that with enough redundancy drones can be just as safe if not safer.

  5. That is because the shorts and media outlets that they pay purposely keep spreading misinformation to cause insecurity. Teslas are the best electric cars on the market right now and for the foreseeable future. I don’t even see a “Tesla killer” on the horizon any time soon.

  6. Extra electrical demand for electric vehicles will have to be provided by new electric plants. Because natural gas is so cheap, all new plants are gas not coal fired, far cleaner. Tesla has been getting 300k miles on their batteries and are looking at 1 million mile batteries in the near future. So at least some of your concerns have been have already been solved.

  7. Having a relative who is a commercial pilot I can say that pilots are there for when the plane is hit by lightning, loses half the instruments and make an emergency diversion to some service airport.

    Heck of late it seems that both Airbus and Boeing can’t avoid crashes due to single instrument failures.

  8. I don’t own TSLA stock or shorts but I have noticed that while the markets are in general going up TSLA is going down. Remember when it was high $300s?

    Electric cars are going to be here to stay. Tesla? Well I hope so but I have doubts.

    1. Time matters immensely. Need to refuel in less time than it takes to load a plane with passengers and crew. Profitability in airlines means reusing your jet as much as possible.
    2. History of air disasters is not kind to large bay doors that can open (to take fresh battery swaps). Internally swapable batteries are a *bad* idea.
    3. Best solution is for wing mounted battery pods. Charge them at you leisure and then swap old pods for new pods for the next flight. They would be shaped like old fuel drop tanks.
    4. If electric props planes are slower than commercial jets then you will lose money because you will have 1-2 fewer flights per day.
    5. Don’t know what Musk’s calc involved but kerosene beats batteries for all but infrequent short distance flights. Kerosene wins on range, refuelling time, margin for error, thrust, top speed.
  9. Musk is a welfare queen? How. They have paid back the money just like GM….of course GM is moving everything to Mexico right now.

    You mean like the banks which literally just used the money to get bigger.

    Electric cars HAVE taken off. Most people I know want one. Hell if I could buy one it could save me 300 a week in gas.

    Whoever you are you don’t know what your talking about.

  10. Swappable batteries can also be charged when other electricity demand is low, so that is better for the electricity grid & all the other electricity customers.

  11. “10 hour charge.”
    That’s why I think electric vehicles need a standard size battery that can be quickly swapped out.

  12. You (and Musk) are both right….for a conventional propeller, efficiency of which has been advancing by 20% per 100 year and 0.1% for the last two decades.

    Its not the battery tech. which is stalling the electric flight, its the propeller tech.

    I.e. rotary-wing has been shown to outperform a prop-wing by a factor of 2x with a noise footprint of 0.5x (same size, same power). No further R&D.

    Leading edge bumps (tubercles) on a conventional prop: +40% efficiency. No further R&D.

    Ion(plasma) thrusters on a wing. 95% efficiency with no moving parts. No further R&D.

  13. What makes you believe that charge speed will be limited to 90kW in 5 years ? Porche today is at 350kW.

  14. I’ve own an EV for 6 months now and never had to use a public charger. I charge at home. EV owners use chargers maybe 100 times less than regular car users go to the gas station. So this is not as big as a problem as it seems.

  15. Battery swapping is an option- if time matters that much. Design should be prepared for fast and easy swapping. They must have thought about that!

  16. I don’t get it. The Kokam batteries in the design (ultra high energy NMC type) weighs in at 3,788kg for a 900kWh system. Add this to rest of the MTOW and the numbers don’t work, never mind the charging time needed. Maybe a payload of waif supermodels?

    I think H powered airplanes are the future. Probably cryo-LH2.

  17. The removal of heat is trivial if you semi-reuse existing infrastructure. Just pump cold water over the batteries using the old fuel trucks, and out into another one.

  18. …or one could use refillable batteries, like the bi-ion system at Nanoflowcell. Says the company: “bi-ION is the liquid energy carrier for the nanoFlowcell®. The power density of the electrolyte is comparable with that of modern lithium-ion batteries, but its energy density is five times greater. bi-ION is the perfect fuel for environmentally compatible and sustainable electric drive.” And it fuels up in minutes not hours.
    Yes, it’s perennially in beta mode, but maybe that will change someday and the founder has addressed that too: https://www.nanoflowcell.com/what-we-do/innovation-research/bi-ion/

  19. That is true too (“if any ecosystem has the chops to adopt a complex, somewhat dangerous high-intensity charging system, aircraft ground operations would be a most-obvious first adopter“) … how’s that for paraphrasing?

    Anyway, I like your thinking.  
    Triple redundancy, double certification, single tech recharging.

    As long as it can scale to 10:1 or 25:1 different airframe sizing, well … it’d be made to work. Bet you this tho’: the cost of energy might not be much but the cost of hooking-up-and-getting-a -full-service-charge would be substantial.  

    Likely erasing much of the highly touted economy coming from use of electricity. 

    unless … of course … the FAA certifies individual semi-private pilots and their hangers to do an Air über service of some sort, charging their craft in their own hangers overnight … for a computer-certified fly-away of a few passngers and their laptops.  

    Could work. 
    Just saying,
    GoatGuy ✓

  20. If there is an application where it is feasible to have very high power rechargers, with liquid battery cooling and the rest, then aircraft would be that application.
    Aircraft refueling is performed at limited, specialized locations.
    Aircraft are already used to requiring specialized training for doing what other transport modes regard as “average person” activities.
    Airports already feature lots of high tech, dangerous equipment and know how to look after such.

    Not saying it’ll work, but aircraft are probably the easiest application to get working.

    On the downside, aircraft need heaps of energy and for anything other than hobby planes they really like to minimize turn-around time.

  21. Pretty sure that if this is going to be the only issue, the will build the right size infrastructure for it. More electrical airplanes are in the making, There are already electrical ferries and soon there are going to be electrical semi trailers and trains. Chargers are not going to be the limiting factor in all of this.

  22. Oh fer chrissake. You are not some genius for deducing that charge time is of interest. There are maybe 150 electric-air-vehicle projects out there, and every one that I’ve bothered to read up on has clearly thought about it. For example, Siemens demo’d a swappable battery pack for their electric airplane project. A YEAR AGO. I guess you didn’t notice. Various people (like Bye) are using Siemens motors and could presumably use that swap technology. It’s not like it’s rocket science.

    Pipistrel is in actual production with a 2-place trainer plane: a project in Fresno, California has been flying them for a year now . ( https://sustainableaviationproject.com) Pipistrel is giving a one-hour charge in 15 to 20 minutes ( https://www.aopa.org/news-and-media/all-news/2018/july/25/pipistrel-shows-electric-airplane-battery-charger
    ) and argue that that’s good enough for the trainer market.

    Eviation has, umm, more aggressive goals. But not impossible ones.

  23. That in itself is an interesting idea. Instead of a conformal fuel tank you could have a conformal battery and, as you said, charge them at a reasonable rate on the ground. FWIW the conformal fuel tanks designed for the F-16 actually reduced its Cd so just because there’s an external “lump” that doesn’t necessarily compromise the aerodynamics or design. Could be a huge positive from a maintenance standpoint.

    Regarding my earlier comment re autonomous, I wasn’t thinking so much about a passenger plane hauling cargo but the new FAA “drone” guidelines and how a really big “drone” could potentially change logistics. As you said, nothing to do with electric but if you could make electric work you could potentially reduce maintenance down time.

  24. Swappable battery tech is the ONLY real solution that makes sense from a safety point of view, too. … but then, as far as I can tell, if the charge cycle is largely endothermic (ie. actually cooling off battery packs while charging at a low enough rate), transitioning to exothermic (as charge-current imposes higher ohmic losses within conductors and the intrinsic chemistry potentials of the cells), then discharge (power use) ranges from exothermic to strongly exothermic-under-high-power-demand.  

    Which of course completely sidelines the cell-sitting-there mass per unit energy. When one might have to increase battery mass by 50% … 75% … 100% or more just to take care (non-conductive fluids, hoses, pumps, radiators) of the energy-use exothermic output, well … that is going to be a problem.

    For planes.

    Might as well just remove the packs and swap them out for fully charged ones.  

    That way they can be charged SLOW, safe, and “good for the battery” at the airport maintenance depot’s leisure.

    Just saying,
    GoatGuy ✓

  25. Most people that own Teslas really do not have an issue with charge times. They are manageable. Really only ever (maybe) become an issue on long road trips.

  26. Swapable batteries might also be a solution for the air planes. Have a battery section in the bottom and make it swapable.
    I prefer batteries over hydrogen, because hydrogen makes you dependent on a supplier (who can dictate prices), which is most likely a fossil fuel company. Most hydrogen is made from Methane.

  27. Remember … there is not-a-single-thing about an electric airplane that somehow affords it the “pilotless drone to deliver freight”, you know. Except for FAA rules requiring a pilot.  A plane is a plane is a plane.  

    Might if you have time, to read the other responses I’ve penned here. They talk to your “charge time”, and the SAFE sloughing off of heat-of-resistance-in-charging.  

    Just saying,
    GoatGuy ✓

  28. Electric cars are already taking off…
    Also, looking at the bailouts for Detroit car companies in 2009, I think the money that Tesla got (and has long since paid back in full!), is peanuts. In return, the US got the first new car maker in decades (while the others are closing). Tesla now employs almost 50,000 people.
    And talking about welfare: Ford got a lot of money to develop their own line of BEVs and they did nothing with it. Compared to some of the corporate welfare, most large US corporations are getting, Tesla gets pretty much nothing.
    And the Detroit car companies took the bailout money and shipped their jobs off to China…

  29. Yes, charge time is the Achille’s Heel for electric-systems that do not utilize a flowable fuel (fuel cells…) such as compressed H₂, reform-compressed CH₄, reform-compressed NH₃ or some other exotic source of electrons. 

    Although the compelling optimization calculus is too complicated than I can fit in a few paragraphs, it is fair to say that if 2 things come about with little-to-no hubris, low cost and low licensing hurdles … then fuel-cells could rather easily eclipse self-contained battery tech.  

    Mainly… CHEAP, powerful and compact fuel cells themselves, and SAFE, compact and high-energy ‘fuel/storage’ solutions.

    For example hydrogen-compressed doesn’t really cost much to make, handle or fill at high-pressure to high-durability tanks. In as little volume (and weight!) as a filled conventional car or airplane petrol tank, one can store the same amount of MOTIVE energy at about 700 atmosphere or 10,000 PSI.  

    Sounds high? … its ‘nothing’ compared to aircraft and ground-craft hydraulic systems.  

    So, cheap storage, and cheap production of H₂ is more-or-less solved.  

    But the FUEL-CELLS themselves. For both ground-craft and aircraft, one wants them to be compact, cheap, high specific energy, last a long time, and be non-taxing in terms of maintenance, heat exfoliation, noxious byproduct emissions and combustibility risk.  

    Which is a problem. THE problem.

    Just saying,
    GoatGuy ✓

  30. OK … I agree — I was using a modest charge-rate for a couple of decently defensible reasons

    (1) to allow not-special car-charging infrastructure devices to fill the bill, 
    (2) what a micro-airline (once-a-day flights) might use

    It really isn’t all that unreasonable to use larger chargers … up to the point where ohmic heating overwhelms the abilities of the cell-packs to slough off the thermals.

    For example, using 500 kW charging at perhaps 500 volts, 1,000 amps in 2 plugs of 500 amps each, acknowledging that charging at that high rate is perhaps only 85% efficient, then 15% of 500 kW = 75,000 W of heat needs to be wicked away from the battery packs, if for no other reason than to prevent an aircraft-destroying explosive run-away fire.  

    Does wicking away the 75,000 W require a liquid non-ionic (non-conducting) fluid to bathe the cell-packs’ internals? That’s going to add a LOT of mass. Even if we assume that the specialized charger has the heat-exchanger (and that run-time, the packs require no radiator), still … pumps, fluids, fluid purity, FAA rules for contamination, cost, cost+profit, CP+insurance, CPI+certification, CPIC+ground-station certs, fluid metrology.  

    Thing is, it is ALL doable. But it is also an “electric vehicle ecosystem”. Not at all like plugging in your iPhone.

    Just saying,
    GoatGuy ✓

    PS: on their graphics, it looks like they “piggybacked” a large battery UNDER the carriage of a Cessna 337. Maybe swappable?

  31. I couldn’t care less about short sellers. Musk is a welfare queen who habitually lies and conjures things out of his a55. ie. People were stupid enough to give Tesla interest free loans which Musk used as working capital but didn’t have to count it as a liability. Creative accounting. Then…delay. The pied piper has so many people under his spell. I hope electric cars eventually take off, only because of the economic benefits to society, not the greeny weeny nonsense.

  32. You talk that way to a person that is your superior in every conceivable way, but stupidity(You have us all beat there)?

    Plus please name somthing you did to help the human species, anything. Don’t feel bad the only thing I do is recycle but on the other hand I am not bad mouthing someone who has made a real contribution to society.

  33. Yeah, because Tesla’s quarterly numbers have been sooo horrible…
    The short sellers just wished they were and keep talking nonsense. I hope they all fall on their noses flat and make big losses.

  34. Most people do not need to use the superchargers. They are only needed for long trips. Otherwise, people charge their cars at home, over night.

  35. The problem is not time, it is space. Imagine if at every gas station a car took 30 minutes to fill a tank. The lineups would be huge or each gas station would take up a huge amount of area just to park all the cars being filled up.

  36. “900 kW ÷ 90 kW → 10 hr charge. And 90 kW is a BIG charger”

    I’m not an engineer or science type guy, but am I missing something? Tesla superchargers are 150 kW, and that’s in a consumer setting. Is it unreasonable to think that an even larger charger isn’t possible in the more industrial setting like an airport?

  37. You are describing a .1C charge rate! Current Tesla model 3 with a 75kWh pack can reach 250kW charge speed which is 3.33C it tapers down to about 2C after a bit of time. Still 900kW charging is possible. Not to mention mega chargers which will be used by Tesla semi. Point is charging in 1hr will be possible in the case where the longest range is needed.

  38. Charge time. That’s the Achilles heel of electric… cars, planes, whatever. IF, and that’s a big if, the charge time problem can be solved, then they have a chance.

  39. Interesting how the charger becomes the bottleneck. Up until that point I was like “yup, yup, feasible, feasible…” but any such aircraft’s economic viability is going to lean heavily on turnaround time. Figure an hour to pack and unpack (probably too long).

    The notion of using a plane that size autonomously to move cargo is interesting from a logistical perspective. Pilots are expensive and you need a lot of cargo to justify one. However, take the pilot out of the loop and a big fixed cost per flight is gone which probably opens up air delivery to smaller cargos and smaller airports.

  40. Let’s see… from our friend Wikipedia:

    Capacity: 9 passengers ⊕ 2 crew, maximum payload of 1,250kg (2,750lb)
    Length: 12.2 m (40 ft 0 in)
    Wingspan: 16.12 m (52 ft 11 in)
    Max takeoff weight: 6,350 kg (13,999 lb)
    Fuel capacity: 900 kWh, Li-ion
    Powerplant: 3 × electric motors , 260 kW (350 hp) each
    Cruise speed: 482 km/h (300 mph; 260 kn) at 3,000 m (10,000 ft)
    Never exceed speed: 630 km/h (391 mph; 340 kn)
    Range: 1,046 km (650 mi; 565 nmi) including IFR reserve
    Service ceiling: 9,100 m (29,900 ft)
    Approach speed: 185 km/h; 115 mph (100 kn)

    So, let’s do a few calculations. 

    900 kWh → 900,000 Wh ÷ 400 Wh/kg → 2,250 kg (35%)
    + max payload 1,250 kg → 3,500 fuel + payload. (20%)

    Max TKO = 6,350 kg … so leaving 
    6,350 – 3,500 → 2,850 kg (45%) for airfarme, motors, instrumentation, controls
    … seats, failsafe equipment, landing gear, HVAC, cabin pressurization, hydraulics.

    And it gets 650 statue, or 565 nautical (air) miles. At 260 kn or about 2 hr. in-air time.

    Practical? Well, of course, for ONE FLIGHT A DAY flights, perhaps. 
    900 kW ÷ 90 kW → 10 hr charge. And 90 kW is a BIG charger.  

    Initially, at the least, each plane would do well to adopt Tesla’s double-plug, 90 kW charging standard; at least that way, the charger-equipment is already developed, and would be useable with easily installed service.  As well as being doubly good for charging up fanboy Tesla run-abouts. 

    Just saying,
    GoatGuy ✓

  41. Every time Musk/Tesla announces something. The haters and short sellers come out of the woodwork and make posts like this. Every single time, they are proven wrong.
    Does not always happen as quickly as Musk’s (overly ambitious) plans indicate, but so far things have happened pretty much exactly as he said they would.
    Regarding power from coal: Not everyone produces the majority of their power from coal. E.g. Ontario gets most from nuclear (and it is very cheap).
    And electric cars are a lot more efficient than gasoline engines.
    Recharge times are not that big of a deal anymore. Teslas now get 80% charge in what? 30 minutes? That is barely enough time to go to the bathroom and have a coffee. Airplanes spend a lot more time than that at the airport anyway.

  42. Total BS, off by factor of 10 to 100 depending upon use of battery pack. Sell it to the morons in the press, Elon. How much coal must be burned to produce a reliable charge of power for these “electric vehicles?” How long does it take to fully recharge these clunkers vs. time to refill fuel tanks? How soon until replacement needed for those junk piles? A never ending scam show to benefit the politically corrupt .

    Elon, people don’t feel good when they’re dying of energy starvation thanks to you and your lying crony friends.

  43. The Musk show before quarterly numbers. The bigger his show and B.S., the bigger the miss on Tesla #s.

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