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Clean Energy Wire: Emission-free aviation is feasible - DLR Researcher

May 1, 2018. Sören Amelang for Clean Energy Wire.  Josef Kallo, director of the Institute for Energy Conversion and Storage at Ulm University and coordinator of the Research Group Energy Systems Integration at the German Aerospace Center (DLR), says electric flight is not just a distant vision. He sees hybrid electric motors in combination with fuel cell technology as a promising place to start. But the sky’s the limit as far as future development goes – this is just the beginning. The main obstacle to more rapid progress in electric flying is comparatively cheap kerosene.

Clean Energy Wire (CEW): Is electric flying a distant vision or about to become reality?  
Josef Kallo (JK): Electric flying is definitely no longer a crackpot vision. I would say it simply depends on how we plan to treat the environment in the future. On rather short distances – up to about 1,000 or even 1,500 km – we definitely have the chance to use electric motors in combination with fuel cell technology, but it remains a question of price. As long as kerosene remains as cheap as it is today, and as long as we don’t worry about external costs such as environmental damages and climate change, conventional technologies will always have a cost advantage. But if we take these costs into account – for example using a price on CO2, or other levies on externalities like noise emissions – then we will have to think about alternatives. But we need to put this into perspective: the development and approval of these technologies for a roll-out on a large scale will take another 10, 15 or even 20 years.

Electric flying is definitely no longer a crackpot vision. On rather short distances – up to about 1,000 or even 1,500 km – we definitely have the chance to use electric motors in combination with fuel cell technology, but it remains a question of price.
Josef Kallo, director of the Institute for Energy Conversion and Storage at Ulm University 

CEW: What is your current research focus?  
JK: At the moment, we concentrate on aviation because it has become a highly interesting research area. In general, we focus on fuel cell hybrids, and hybrids combining innovative electric motors and combustion engines, including the necessary infrastructure, such as storage. One of the most interesting questions facing us today: how can we realise reliable and secure energy supply systems that are redundant? Or, translated into plain language: How can we make sure a plane can continue to fly even if one system fails? This requires a highly intelligent combination and integration of different energy systems. 

CEW: When do you expect renewable flying to take off? 
JK:  The development of smaller planes – we’re talking 4 to 10 seaters – could proceed relatively quickly with the right financial support. But we’re still talking 8 to 10 years until a safe plane gets official permits. Regarding larger planes in the range of up to 40 seats, we will definitely need another 15 to 20 years.  

CEW: You work in close cooperation with the aerospace industry. How seriously do relevant companies take this issue?
JK:  Companies like Siemens (see Factsheet), Rolls-Royce, Airbus, MTU, and others take electric flying very seriously at the moment. Especially larger power outputs have turned into a pressing issue – for a 40-seater, we’re talking about a megawatt. Given the long experience of these large industry partners, and the possibilities they have, I definitely expect rapid progress on these issues.

Read the full Q&A with Josef Kallo here
Article source: https://www.cleanenergywire.org/news/emission-free-aviation-technically-feasible-dlr-researcher
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