Elon Musk on Electric Flight

April 9, 2019

13 Responses to “Elon Musk on Electric Flight”

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Might not be “the most efficient way of flying”, but it DOES have good potential and looks like it would be workable and efficient for it’s intended uses. Like all the bright ideas floating around, we won’t know for sure until we build some and use them.

      • Sir Charles Says:

        At the moment just a niche business


        The technology is as old as the hills. A decent jet fuel tax could spark a renaissance.

        • dumboldguy Says:

          Yep, over 100 years old—-the Germans bombed London from Zeppelins in WWI, and they were used in both WWI and WWII in an anti-sub role as well. I can remember as a kid in the 40’s and 50’s at the Jersey Shore watching the U.S. Navy “blimps” fly out to sea on patrol from the Lakehurst NAS. I see now why you posted the fuel tax link, but it’s kind of apples and oranges, isn’t it? Blimps and jets serve two very different needs.

      • Sir Charles Says:

        ” This briefing will consider the legal possibilities for imposing a tax on the fuel used in EU member states’ domestic aviation. It will consider the relevant treaties and laws: the Chicago Convention, the EU ETS, the Energy Taxation Directive, and the Excise Duty Directive. It reaches the conclusion that taxation can be imposed on fuel used in domestic aviation without legal impediment. It should be noted at the outset that this question has been considered before by the UK Parliament and by Prof Eckhard Pache for the German Federal Environment Agency, both of which came to the conclusion that taxing domestic aviation fuel in the EU was perfectly legal. ”

        => https://www.transportenvironment.org/publications/domestic-aviation-fuel-tax-eu

        • dumboldguy Says:

          Not sure what the relevance of this piece is—governments have always taxed to raise revenue and control/regulate certain activities and commodities. ???

    • Most efficient? Nope.

      Airships are no better that cargo jets in how much energy it takes to move a given mass a given distance. Traditional airships are about as good as the more efficient jets while hybrids are worse¹ than just about anything in service.

      Add to that how much airships _SUCK_, (slow, weather vulnerability, ground handling issues, etc.), and the cargo airship is something only worth looking at for very limited uses. (Shipping something too big for a helicopter, to somewhere you can’t either build a runway or send things by surface transport and that doesn’t preclude airships.)

      There’s a reason these “cargo airships are just around the corner” stories and press releases haven’t really changed for decades.

      1: The people building airships figured out that the hybrid airship was worse than traditional ones back in the _1920s_.

      • Sir Charles Says:

        When compared to modern jet engine airplanes, airships are admittedly much slower. But, unlike airplanes, well-engineered airships can carry more cargo, stay in flight for days, and can land and takeoff easily in areas without specialized infrastructure. They are also less dependent on traditional jet fuels, which makes them a more energy efficient and cheaper transport option.

        How would you get 100 tons of food and medicine to people trapped in a remote location without roads, ports, airstrips or rail lines?

        Also => Sustainable Transportation: Airships Versus Jet Airplanes

        Without question, jet airplanes used for dedicated freight transportation are the most polluting segment of the aviation industry. These are typically the oldest and least fuel efficient jetliners, but they are also the segment of air transport that might be replaced most easily. Transport airships are being designed and tested that could reduce GHG emissions greatly. Potentially transport airships could use hydrogen gas as a fuel and offer zero-carbon emission air transport. A world-wide competition is emerging to develop transport airships, and with the added incentives of carbon taxes, it is only a matter of time before this new technology begins to be employed commercially.

        • dumboldguy Says:

          Although the airships are perhaps being over-hyped by the “get rich quick” guys, chakat is sounding like an anti-vaxxer/nuker with his overkill. The airships have their place, are comparatively cheap and easy to build, and it wouldn’t hurt to have some.

        • Carry more cargo?

          Nope: The lift capacity of an airship is about one kilogram per cubic metre. That’s not how much cargo it can carry, that’s everything except for the helium¹ itself. You would need an airship over twice the size of the Hindenburg to match a large cargo jet.

          Stay in flight for days?

          Sure, but if time doesn’t matter a ship can carry far more for far less.

          Land and take off without specialized infrastructure?

          Not really, remember that if you want to carry a meaningful amount of cargo you will have something the size of a ship.

          A wider selection of fuel choices is an advantage, but that advantage also applies to the very fixed-wing propeller driven aircraft that made the airship obsolete in the first place.²

          And as I pointed out: There’s a reason that even when airships were a thing, no one built hybrid airships and it isn’t because they couldn’t. Hybrids are no faster than traditional airships and burn more fuel.

          As to how you get stuff to people in that rather specialized use case, (N.B.: I did mention that there were highly specialized cases where airships are the best choice): If it’s one-time you use an airdrop or a helicopter, if it’s ongoing you either build an airstrip, (remember, there are cargo aircraft in service that are just fine landing on grass or packed dirt), or a road.

          Go look at the history of people proclaiming “airships are about to make a comeback,” the things I’m hearing now are the same as what I was hearing on ‘gee-whiz’ TV shows almost 40 years ago.

          1: Which has a rather serious, and growing, supply problem.

          2: Remember, it wasn’t the Hindenburg disaster that doomed airships. What doomed them was that fixed-wing aircraft could carry more, faster, for less and with a fraction of the crew.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Why are you so anti-airship? Ships can’t go onto land at all, big planes need runways—-why can’r we let the greedy rich folks burn some of their money on this and see if it does work?

  1. dumboldguy Says:

    I both “liked” and gave only one star to this piece. Liked because it shows Musk at his “worst” (for want of a better word), and one star because it’s really a lot of disinformation and rather misleading—a waste of ten minutes listening to him repeat the same foolishness—-I hope no one takes Musk seriously about all this.

    But before Gingerbaker bestirs himself in VT and takes up his cudgel as president of the Crock chapter of the MLOA (Musk Lovers of America) and tries to kill me, let me say that Musk HAS had a positive impact with his electric automobiles and should be congratulated for that. It’s too bad Tesla still can’t meet production targets, has had to lay off staff, is in trouble with the SEC, and its stock has taken a beating—-I DO wish Tesla luck—-it would do better if Musk didn’t let himself get distracted by such foolishness as electric flight, hyperloops, and MARS.

    Just a few points:

    1) What the heck is an “electric jet”? An electric jet ENGINE is theoretically possible, but he sounds like he means the whole aircraft.
    2) Aircraft don’t need tails, rudders and elevators? WHAT? Gimbal the motors, Musk says?? What happens when power fails and the pilots need to try to glide back to earth? This was a truly jaw-dropping statement by someone who should know better.
    3) Musk mentioned “energy density” of batteries briefly, and said it was way too low at that point. The weight of batteries and their energy density problem is THE big drawback even for small electric planes , never mind huge VTOL supersonic ones.

    The man is getting carried away with his own BS. Stick to the cars, Elon.

  2. Sir Charles Says:

    The problem isn’t physics. The problem is cheap jet fuel exempted from any tax and duties. But nonetheless…

    French company Flying Whales is developing a 500-foot cargo airship which will be able to lift an industry-leading 60 tonnes of lumber, outsize parts and machinery, a Bloomberg report said.
    The company has already secured about 200 million euros ($246 million) in capital. It plans an initial public offering in 2021, when a prototype is slated for its first flight.

    => French Flying Whales Eyes Heavy-lift Market

    A real alternative to heavy oversize trucks.

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