With Tesla (TSLA) launching the Cybertruck and Ford (F) ramping up its electric vehicle plans, electrification is on investors’ minds. But you should look beyond the familiar consumer and tech sectors to a new chapter for industrials: electric aircraft. Check out the video below to learn more about this pioneering space.
Why invest in electric aircraft technology?
Planes that emit zero C02 don’t use lead-based fuel and are 1,000 times quieter than traditional propeller-driven aircraft. That’s the promise of the eFlyer 2 and eFlyer 4 from Bye Aerospace, Inc.
While reducing negative externalities to the public, the efficiency of an electric powertrain significantly reduces the cost of a flight to approximately one-fifth of a similar piston-motor driven airplane. That’s according to George Bye, CEO & Founder of Bye Aerospace.
The e-Flyer 2 isn’t a pie-in-the-sky dream, either. Prototypes are currently flying, and Part 23, Amendment 64 FAA certification is planned in late 2021. In the video interview above, Bye explains that the target market for the eFlyer 2, a two-passenger plane, is pilot training. He also indicates a demand for 804,000 new commercial pilots over the next 20 years. With a cost of $150,000, training expense is a barrier for aspiring pilots.
The low operational costs of the e-Flyer 2 (electricity less than 1/10 of aviation fuel, fewer parts to maintain, et cetera) make it ideal for flight schools. And Bye Aerospace has hit its target, as you can see from the hundreds of pre-orders for the eFlyer 2 from various flight training schools.
An industry leader in electrification
As the first one to apply for the electric flight certification, Bye Aerospace is on the leading edge of a larger aircraft industry trend toward electrification. The eFlyer’s long-term societal disruption is the compression of space through low-cost, relatively short-range air travel. The eFlyer 4, a four-passenger electric plane, is projected to have an operational cost of about $30 per hour. You can compare that cost to approximately $150 per hour for a piston-driven propeller plane.
Plus, with a speed of 175 knots per hour, the eFlyer 4 could cover a 100-mile radius in about 30 minutes for about $15. Assuming a pilot salary of $120 per hour, a 100-mile, one-way, three-passenger trip would be about $25. (That’s $5 per person in operational costs, plus $20 for the pilot’s salary.)
This electric aircraft travel would cost over $12,000 per year ($50 round trip times 250 workdays), and it would seem prohibitively expensive at first glance. But the cost savings on housing would be even greater. For instance, the difference in median home prices between Silicon Valley ($1.16 million) and neighboring Merced County ($268,000) is more than $800,000, according to Zillow. So you’re looking at savings of more than $36,000 per year at typical mortgage rates.
The market’s need for electric planes
The flight distance between the city of Merced and San Jose is approximately 75 miles. A $50 roundtrip airfare would compare favorably to the projected California High-Speed Rail or HSR cost of $58–$73. (See pages 4 and 22 of the previous link. Note also that it isn’t clear whether these estimates are for one-way or round trips.) Further, the trip in an eFlyer would last less than 30 minutes, which would be significantly shorter than the 57 minutes estimated by the High-Speed Rail Authority (page 8).
In turn, the environmental benefits of low-noise, zero-emission aircraft could impact the way new communities develop. It’s not too hard to imagine a car-free community (for example, the 1,000-home Culdesac in Tempe, Arizona) on relatively low-cost, rural land developed around an all-electric airport. In this scenario, the bottlenecks would probably be a shortage of urban airports, as well as having enough pilots to meet demand.
In the long term, many entities are looking at ways to create short–take-off and vertical–take-off aircraft. (Stay tuned for future posts on a couple of these approaches.) These new electric aircraft would make it easier to create vertiports in urban areas. Plus, automated flight control—eventually eliminating the need for a pilot—is underway with many entities and led by NASA. (See this PDF presentation from a recent NASA conference on the topic). Automation would be a huge game-changer in terms of the economics of flight.
Electric aircraft and a George Jetson future
There are many steps to get to the George Jetson–like future of automated and vertical flight. Bye Aerospace is well positioned to take advantage of that future. Bye’s approach is to solve the near-term training problem—and that’s a great building block to what’s necessary for more general electric flight.
Investors should note that this is just another milestone for Bye and his company. They have a track record of designing cutting-edge electric aircraft, such as the Silent Falcon Solar Electric UAV. And, based on their work with Oxis Energy to improve flight distance by 50% to 100% through improved battery energy density, larger planes and on-demand air-taxi service are sure to be on their roadmap.
Want to learn more about the sustainable technology coming to markets of the future? Check out KB Home SVP Talks Smart Homes of the Future, How Zero Mass Water Is Turning Air into Water, and An Interview with Gogoro CEO Horace Luke.