April 17, 2020, ©. Leeham News: We continue the summary of the series why e in ePlane should be more about environment focus than electric aircraft.
Last week we summarized the high hanging fruit technologies pursued presently, now we continue with the low hanging fruit.
Figure 1. The Gartner hype curve. Source: Wikipedia.
The low hanging fruit
We summarise our insights from the series with the highest hanging fruit last week and now continue with more attractive opportunities for environmental progress:
- The lowest hanging fruit of all is the overdue change of our ATC systems. In non-COVID-19 times over 20,000 aircraft fly routes that are 10% longer than they necessary because ATC control is still not using ADS-B technology and what it enables in more direct routes. Air traffic controllers in Europe resist the obvious efficiency improvements of a joint EU ATC using ADS-B as it means fewer controllers can do a better job. Politicians should grasp the rudder now and get this change done. When we had a regular traffic flow, no-one dared pick a fight with the controllers as this would disturb a highly loaded airspace. This is no longer the case and will not be for years. The opportunity for change is now.
- At the next branches, we find Biofuel where we can gradually blend in more of it in our regular jet fuel supply. Politicians and airliners should join up and get this market going, now that air traffic is down. A functioning and economically competitive Biofuel supply should be a goal as we exit this crisis.
- The third level contains the “more electric” initiatives that are in development. Turbofans where an in-line starter generator helps with transients, hold a promise of up to a 5% reduction in fuel and thus CO2 emissions.
- The fourth level from the ground has the more efficient propulsion systems like Open Rotor engines that can give our short-range regionals turboprop efficiency combined with jet speeds.
- Finally, on a bit longer horizon, synthetic fuels are the key to an efficient energy store for places where the generation of energy and consumption is physically separated. We have no practical way of storing energy today. Synthetic fuels can give us this essential capability, and they make perfect jet fuels.
The above lists the areas where our attention and money should be. For several technologies, this is not the case.
Instead, we have 200 projects chasing high hanging fruit. This is also consistent with the Gartner hype curve (Figure 1), the hyped technologies attract the attention and more realistic approaches are neglected.