NASA Axes X-57 Maxwell Before First Flight


NASA says electric aircraft technology isn’t ready for prime time and its much-hyped X-57 Maxwell test aircraft will never fly. The $87 million program (including $47 million in cost overruns) will wind up at the end of this year, and the knowledge gained by trying to get the plane into the air will be available for anyone who can apply it to their project.

The plan was to modify a Tecnam P2006 with an array of small electric motors on the leading edge of a high-lift wing for vertical takeoff and shift the power to two larger wingtip motors and props for cruise flight. NASA officials said in a streamed news conference on Friday they can’t do it safely in the time available. The announcement comes on the heels of Tecnam’s announcement that it was suspending its own electrification project, the P-Volt, because battery technology isn’t advanced enough for economically viable aircraft.

In the conference, Bradley Flick, director of NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, said NASA based the program on assumptions that existing electric propulsion technology was advanced enough to be incorporated into the Maxwell. He said the researchers discovered those assumptions were incorrect. “What we learned is that many of those necessary subsystems were not sufficiently mature for safe flight,” he said.

In 2021 the team decided to fund the research through the end of 2023, and they thought they’d get the plane into the air. Flick said that earlier this year researchers discovered a problem with the technology that would make flying the plane unsafe and there wouldn’t be enough time to fix it before the scheduled end of the program.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. Maybe these guys should have first read the AVWeb Comment section, where the majority of the chorus noted that electric and electric/hybrid flying isn’t quite “there” yet.

  2. Battery technology will never be advanced enough for economically viable aircraft. There may be some niche aircraft where it will be viable, but neither battery powered airliners or even practical trainers will ever exist.

    The issue is energy density which needs to increase by roughly an order of magnitude for batteries to be viable and replace fossil fuel, and that is never going to happen.

    Battery technology is about 200 years old and lithium battery technology is about 100 years old. The first attempt at lithium batteries a hundred years ago was abandoned because no one could figure out how to keep a battery of any decent size from self destructing. That issue was, more or less, solved by putting smart controllers inside the battery, not though any astounding break through in electrochemistry or materials. Battery technology is mature technology and the most optimistic improvement possible is about a factor of 2, which will be fantastic for cars and trucks but will do little to nothing for airplanes. You may not like physics, but it is the law.

    Likewise, electric motor technology is about 200 years old, is mature technology, and motor efficiency passed 98% some years ago. There is no room left for improvement there.

    The bottom line is batteries are a dead end for airplanes.

    • When Tesla first introduced the Roadster in 2008, I thought nobody would ever buy an electric car. It’s just an expensive toy. I just bought an electric car in 2023. And it is awesome, even with it’s limited range and charging inconvenience.

      Everyone is right, the battery technology isn’t there yet. But it will be. And the reason is not anything to do with aviation. The economics of the automotive battery will fix this.

      • Reaction from the road is free.
        Reaction form the air is very costly.
        EV’s weigh more than gas vehicles. Longer range EV’s weigh more than short range EV’s.
        Even with road EV’s technology projections, electric aircraft performance/efficiency graphs hopelessly diverge.

      • Nobody ever mentions the fact that an electric airplane lands at the same weight it took off at. So no take off above max landing weight is possible like is done now. Not possible to burn fuel and land or dump fuel.

        • People mention that all the time, and they seem to think it has greater importance than it likely does.

    • “The issue is energy density which needs to increase by roughly an order of magnitude for batteries to be viable and replace fossil fuel, and that is never going to happen.” Never is a long time.

      • The applicable laws of physics that govern batteries are immutable and all of the elements from which batteries can be made have been known for a long time. There is no way, even in the wildest theory, that energy density can be increased by an order of magnitude.

        If practical electric airplanes are to ever exist, they will have to be powered by something other than batteries. Fuel cells are one possible answer.

        • I agree that fuel cells are a more possible energy source for e-aircraft. However what ‘fuel’ with they use ? Propane, Nat gas ?
          Don’t mention hydrogen, which is electrolyzed from water using electricity, which today is mainly generated from nat gas.

    • “Battery technology will never be advanced enough for economically viable aircraft.”

      The Earth is flat and the universe revolves around it.

  3. Wow, $87 million dollars to figure out what was pretty obvious from the start. Your tax dollars in action! Maybe they should have let Elon Musk work on that for them. Oh, wait, he already did that for cars. But even he said that electric airplanes were not there yet.

  4. Having spent most — 27 years — of my 38 year professional aviation ‘life’ on and around Edwards AFB, I can attest to the wastefulness of Government entities who manage by throwing massive amounts of money at projects. The military and NASA are no different than the society, in general. They get goofy ideas in their heads and have the power to turn those ideas into projects funded by — you know — you and I. At NASA Dryden cum Armstrong, they’ve done some good things over the years but now the younger folks are stepping up with the electric propulsion “syndrome” as I like to call it. THIS fiasco is a perfect example.

    Just yesterday, I attended the Midwest Renewable Energy Assn ‘Fair’ in WI since it was nearby and I have an interest in PV. As I entered, I thought I’d entered a time warp … people wearing tie-dyed T-shirts, man buns, beads and the usual accoutrements of the 60’s and 70’s … only now they’re trying to power the world with electrons to ‘save it.’ Prius’ and Leafs were everywhere. In some areas, this is smart. In others … NOT so smart. Electric airplanes would be at the top of the wasteful list, for me. They have to defeat gravity in addition to motive forces. One guy never flinched when he told me I could build a PV patio cover for a mere $200K and the Government — of THIS fiasco — would give me a pile of money to help pay for it. Just who is authorizing these massive expenditures? In this X-57 instance, $87M with a $47M overrun is GROSS MISMANAGEMENT of resources!. And no ones head at NASA Armstrong will roll for it.

    Next up … the X-59 ‘boondoggle’ to find out if the general population is offended by a reduction in the sonic boom overpressure. Ultimately, they want to — AGAIN — build supersonic airliners. Maybe they didn’t hear about the SST or the Concorde? Further, the massive drag of a supersonic airplane has to be overcome by thrust — DUH! — which equates to fuel consumption. Maybe THEY haven’t heard that THEY had a program 20 years ago called SSBD (Shaped Sonic Boom Demo) right there at Dryden? Why are they now trying to find out if they’ll peep off the people with sonic booms? Those folks at NASA have lost their minds. Let Boom Aerospace do it.

    So in one office at NASA Armstrong, “hippies” have spent $87M trying to build a 14 motor electric contraption which — as others have pointed out — many of us correctly poo poo’ed. Are they gonna write a tech report that says battery energy density ain’t up to the task? Their goal was to ‘save’ the planet using electric propulsion … they failed. In the adjacent office, some people have spent three times as much — $247M — on another single airplane trying fly wealthy people around the globe at supersonic speeds while using global warming spewing engines. What the hell is going on at NASA Armstrong? Whoever is running that place needs to get a grip on expendatures and program efforts! They’ve spent nearly a third of a BILLION bucks for two airplanes … neither of which has flown, one now won’t and the other will help pollute the atmosphere. Geesh!

    Oh well … I’m sure Tecnam and Lockheed are smiling? Now if we could just convince Cubcrafters to abandon their goofy electric blown flap idea and focus on shareholder value. PT Barnum was right 🙁 Now that I think about it, so was Burt Rutan with HIS disdain for both NASA and Government flight test. I’m with him.

  5. The eBandwagon:

    1 ΦNIX
    2 AC Propulsion SoLong
    3 Aerovironment Bionic Bat
    4 AgustaWestland Project Zero
    5 AirCar
    6 Air Energy AE-1 Silent
    7 Airbus A³ Vahana
    8 Airbus E-Fan
    9 Ampaire Electric EEL
    10 Eviation Alice
    11 Alisport Silent Club
    12 APEV Pouchelec
    13 APEV Demoichelle
    14 AstroFlight Sunrise
    15 Aura Aero ERA
    16 Aura Aero Integral
    17 Baykar Cezeri
    18 Beta AVA
    19 Boeing Fuel Cell Demonstrator (FCD)
    20 Bye Aerospace Sun Flyer 2
    21 Bye Aerospace Sun Flyer 4
    22 Cessna 172 electric
    23 Cessna 208 eCaravan
    24 CityAirbus
    25 CityAirbus NextGen
    26 DigiSky SkySpark
    27 Dragonfly
    28 Dufour Aerospace aEro 1
    29 e-Genius
    30 e-Sling
    31 EADS Green Cri-Cri
    32 Electric Aircraft Corporation ElectraFlyer Trike
    33 Electric Aircraft Corporation ElectraFlyer-C
    34 Electric Visionary Aircraft
    35 Electravia E-Fenix
    36 Electravia ElectroLight2
    37 Electravia BL1E Electra
    38 Electravia Electro Trike
    39 AutoGyro GmbH eCavalon
    40 ENFICA-FC
    41 eUP Aviation Green1
    42 Flightstar e-Spyder
    43 MC15E Cri-Cri
    44 Icaro 2000 Trike
    45 Joby Aviation S4
    46 La France
    47 LAK-17B FES Self-Launch (mini)
    48 Lange Antares 20E
    49 Lange Antares 23E
    50 Lange LF 20
    51 Lilium Jet
    52 Luxembourg Special Aerotechnics MC30E
    53 MacCready Gossamer Penguin
    54 MacCready Solar Challenger
    55 Matsushita / Tokyo Institute of Technology aircraft
    56 Mauro Solar Riser
    57 Militky MB-E1
    58 MIT Monarch
    59 NASA Centurion
    60 NASA Helios
    61 NASA Pathfinder
    62 NASA Puffin
    63 NASA X-57 Maxwell
    64 New Concept Aircraft (Zhuhai) Green Pioneer Ι
    65 Opener BlackFly
    66 PC-Aero Elektra One
    67 Petróczy-Kármán-Žurovec PKZ-1
    68 Phoenix U-14 Electra
    69 Pipistrel Alpha Electro
    70 Pipistrel Taurus Electro G2
    71 Pipistrel Taurus G4
    72 Pipistrel Velis Electro
    73 Pipistrel WATTsUP
    74 QinetiQ Zephyr
    75 Rolls-Royce ACCEL
    76 Schempp-Hirth Discus-2c FES
    77 Schempp-Hirth Ventus-2cxa FES
    78 Schempp-Hirth Arcus-E
    79 Siemens-FlyEco Magnus eFusion
    80 Soaring
    81 Solair 1
    82 Solar Impulse
    83 Solar Impulse 2
    84 Solar-Powered Aircraft Developments Solar One
    85 SolarStratos
    86 Solution F/Chretien Helicopter
    87 Sonex Electric Sport Aircraft
    88 SORA-e
    89 Stuttgart University Icaré II
    90 Sunseeker I
    91 Sunseeker Duo
    92 Tier1 electric Robinson R44
    93 Tissandier
    94 Ultraflight Lazair Electric
    95 Volocopter
    96 Volta Volare GT4
    97 Yuneec International E430
    98 smartflyer SFX1

    • Yep, Raf … I’m STILL waiting for my Bye Aerospace (#22) pop-in electric powerplant for my 172. ‘Ol George pulled a fast one with that fiasco. Glad I didn’t invest.

      If the ‘hot air’ from all of these projects could be funneled into a balloon, maybe THAT would work? Just today, I’m hearing all the air conditioners in Texas is running their grid to pieces. Maybe these people oughta dedicate their efforts toward affordable PV systems … THAT would work.

      • Flying Mag did a good job of promoting this project. “Bye Energy has settled on the venerable Cessna 172 as its electric platform.” At the time I was enthusiastic about it. That was in 2011.
        Here is the link:

    • A C172N with 40 gallon tanks has an endurance of 4 hours at 75% power.

      Which of these can match that?

      A 737 has an endurance of over 6 hours.

      Which of these can match that?

    • This is a great list!

      Some of these are fairly successful, in their space – thinking of Alisport Silent 2, LAK 17b FES, Lange Antares, Pipistrel Alpha Electro, Pipistrel Taurus, Schempp-Hirth Discus FES and Ventus FES and Arcus-E, Sunseeker Duo (it’s a one-off but it’s also an everyday-use aircraft) – all but one are sailplanes. A sailplane needs reliable starting – a key advantages of battery-driven powerplants – but doesn’t need that much energy. It’s also nice to avoid the noise of an ICE and the smell of fuel inside.

      With today’s batteries, electric airplanes are very marginal, and electric rotorcraft make very little if any sense.

  6. No vertical take-off, Russ. Just there to provide enough lift for low-speed flight with a tiny wing.

    Or rather, to provide enough political ‘lift’ to get the project funded in the first place?

  7. As an engineer I have no objection to exploring concepts or allowing separation of funds from pockets (just not mine), as long as everyone respects the same safety margins before selling tickets.

    There’s a parallel unraveling now that will be noted by investors and that is going to be eye-watering for the number of regulatory/insurance opinions and lawyers involved and the futility of “releases” when negligence is contested.

    Ultimately as a pilot, I have as much respect for the tie-dyed believers or snotty entrepreneurs as I do for the 100 hour (insert expensive aircraft here) pilot who launches his family into cumulo-granite…no respect for physics, material science or environment.

  8. Electric aircraft will happen for one primary reason — economics. And, yes, there will be many failures and much hype on the way. Remember GM’s EV1. It was a bit early and was not a commercial success. But now they have a number of practical EVs and will be all electric by 2035. I actually worked on an electric car when I was a grad student in 1967. It was much to early to be practical and took 3000 lbs of batteries to achieve 100 miles of range but remember that the 1903 Wright Flyer only flew a few hundred feet.

    • It’s totally invalid to look back in time at the march of technology and just assume it can be applied forwards with whatever subject you want. When an electric car with a 400 mile range weighs the same as an ICE one, you’ll have a nice summer commuter car as long as you don’t run the AC. If you’re going to a wedding, all the ladies will have wilted before they get there. When you factor in winter, with snow, long traffic jams with accidents, winter storms trapping 1000’s of e-cars full of people who need to keep warm, now you have a huge logistical rescue problem most counties aren’t equipped to handle.

      • HM say a 40 MPG equivalent 60 mph you are using about
        1.66 gallons or 10.3 lbs of gasoline to travel an hour. Assuming a very efficient vehicle this is 24 HP power consumption. the Average Modern AC for a draws. 3 HP during compressor operation at full draw or about 2 hp average, (from Plane Kool CEO who is using a Toyota unit for Experimental Aircraft AC). this is an 8 % average draw compared to freeway cruising. so an 8 percent increase in power use and 8 percent reduction in max range. SO unless you are cutting the range to the edge there will be NO wilted bride. DO the math it is easy.

    • Lets keep it real.
      In just over 10 years after the Wrights, airplanes had matured into war machines flying 100mph.
      In just over 120 years after the Wrights, electric airplanes have progressed to about 1906 levels of flying.

  9. So NASA spent $87 million to discover this? What a waste of time and money. Regardless of the hype, electrics will always be niche/boutique vehicles regardless of the wishful thinking involved.

  10. Not all research goes somewhere but if you’d follow the naysayers a lot of things would not have been tried and accomplished. Given the overall size of the US budget (to which I do not contribute), the expenditure seems infinitesimally small. Investing in PV to get rid of carbon-dependent energy and curb global warming and associated weather extremes makes sense economically, better spend it on PV now than disaster relief later. I, too, think that battery technology is going to improve. Imagine having to run your smartphone on NiCads, the most advanced commercially available technology when I was a teenager. Today’s teenagers will reminisce about 500kg battery packs in cars the same way. Somewhere along that small electric aircraft might have a place.

  11. “… and the knowledge gained by trying to get the plane into the air will be available for anyone who can apply it to their project.”

    Hopefully, detailed tech information will be included about the problematic systems that broke the deal. Given the govt’s propensity to continue throwing money at projects even after cost overruns mount, it’s surprising NASA bailed on this one at this point. Could they have been counting on outside suppliers who were not able to deliver?

  12. $15 Billion was wasted on the US-Mexico border wall. Not sure how much science was gleaned from that experiment.

    • It might be worth a study to see if the sections that were installed are slowing the illegal crossings. Of course, secure borders are a primary government function while research like this is not, so I’m not sure there’s much value in comparing the two. Perhaps if we could all agree it would be better for government to get back to basics we could stop picking and choosing what to throw money at.

  13. This is why the “drawing board” was invented! The waste can should have been the graveyard for all the mistakes. It was easy to see that it was a money bonfire from its conception. Big is never better when you depend on batteries. A light weight generating system is needed for any electric flight to be meaningful. That holds true for cars as well.

    • “A light weight generating system is needed for any electric flight to be meaningful”

      Meaningful? Since fuel is needed to power the grid for initial charging and fuel is needed to power an on-board generator, I have a tough time calling the whole process of electric flight meaningful in the conventional sense.

      • There is a way to produce ample amounts of electricity for flight onboard. It is simple and inexpensive. It will be on our website soon.

  14. Hmm…. $87M for NASA engineers to do some basic calculations that any second year aerospace engineering student must master.

    • Dana, I just found out a very well educated person in my sphere worked on this thing for a while. His comment … “the least surprising outcome of my engineering career.” So it seems the worker bees knew it … only the meatheads managing the program refused to acknowledge the futility of the effort. If NASA managers can’t control themselves, maybe it’s time to seriously curtail their budget. Another person high up in an aerospace company’s structure told me that’s exactly what he did when expenditures started getting out of hand … report on milestones and MAKE them or he cut their budgets. Maybe NASA never heard of ROI ??

  15. Just curious, what happens to lithium batteries that are no longer serviceable?
    How would one put out a lithium battery fire in-flight?
    How does one do it on the ground?
    The answers are why in my opinion lithium batteries shouldn’t be used on aircraft.

    • You cannot put the fire out because of the solid oxygen in the cells which is needed to oxidize the lithium metal. Heat changes it back to a gas which burns very hot. This plane would have been a flying barbecue pit!

      • The local volunteer fire department has a strict protocol on dealing with burning eVehicles … yank the humans out IF possible and then let the vehicle burn.

        Maybe the FAA needs to order ejection seats for all eAirplanes?

    • Well “conventional” fuel fed fires and explosions don’t end up too well either. Anyone remember TWA flight 800?

  16. “A light weight generating system is needed for any electric flight to be meaningful. That holds true for cars as well.”

    Don’t they teach engineers in school these days that you can’t get more energy out of a system than you put in? Would someone please explain to me how a 15-hp engine, turning an electric generator, can drive an airplane or car that requires 100-hp to perform its mission? Sure, the engine driven generator can supply energy to the batteries, but it’s not enough to keep the vehicle in motion. The batteries will still run down; just not as quickly, but they WILL run down.

    Or maybe they have finally found a way around the laws of physics…

  17. What a bunch of clown-show armchair quarterbacks you crowd are.

    In 1910 many people like you-all thought the Wright Brothers were nuts. No market, not practical, yadayada. Innovation is surrounded by naysayers without the vision to understand the future potential the innovation can realize.

    For the record, the X57 program was not scrapped because of batteries, energy density, or the practicality of electrifying the aircraft. It was a technical issue in the design of a component from a supplier that would require redesign to resolve. Totally fixable, just not in the time frame the team had left to complete the project.

    And yes, NASA has published their data and has directly contributed to advancing the state of the art as it relates to electrifying aircraft. Their work has moved the needle – an HIGHLY appropriate use of tax dollars for an Agency chartered with advancing the state of the art as it relates to aerospace.

    If it wasn’t for NASA investing in tech like this over the past 50 years we would still be taking the train everywhere.

    • “In 1910 many people like you-all thought the Wright Brothers were nuts.”

      Maybe so, but after 110 years of aviation it’s clear today what works and what does not.
      This is trying to re-invent the wheel (and doing so with no tangible gain of function).

    • Well AV, you’re right to observer that there are a lot of people who claim to know that electric propulsion aviation is a fairy tale that will never happen. They don’t know the future. No one does. But many people know grade 11 and the basics of energy density and some also the reality of certification requirements, or have an industry understanding of aviation operational reality, that make all of the white-board theory seem overly optimistic.

      However, your assertion that the failure of X-57 was NOT an issue of the lack of practicality and was simply a “a technical issue in the design of a component from a supplier that would require redesign to resolve.” is not anything I can find in reviewing all of NASA’s X-57 docs.

      Please point me to an actual document on NASA’s X-57 Technical Papers site that supports your claim that somehow a supplier or its component was at the root of the cancellation.

      What I am seeing is that they are claiming to have 650 docs available but only showing a few dozen of high level 10-page glossy powerpoints owith no access to the underlying data. They are claiming to offer The Data on request. I do see they have been talking about the project in the past tense for months. I do see they never successfully cleared Mod II and nowhere near the Mod IV test flights that would yield data of actual use for others. I do see they eventually admit their power controller transistor heat issues, which they are using as the last-straw excuse to throw in the towel, were already identified and rectified by Joby years ago (again, according to NASA’s own analysis), so again, they did nothing “groundbreaking” whatsoever. They knew others had identified this roadblock, but they thought they were the smartest people and could re-invent the laws of thermodynamics. But that was only the official reason to cancel – they met very few of their own metrics to move to the next stage gate and are years behind schedule.

      NASA’s words: “The value of X-57 lies in advancing the Nation’s ability to design, test, and
      certify electric aircraft, which will enable entirely new markets.
      The Mod II flight test program is a pathfinder for the experimental propulsion
      system performance and reliability to reduce the risk in the X-57 configuration.”

      But they did not get anywhere in Mod II. So by definition, the project yielded nothing of value. The Certification Pathfinder mission is a dead end. There is nothing they got working properly.
      They identified all of the challenges and overcame a grand total of ZERO. Of course, if you look at the presser, somehow COVID was to blame.

      Again, I actually believe e-flight is coming eventually. X-programs are experimental and $87m is not a lot of money compared to the gov’t budget pie. NASA is a always doing interesting research, and some slice has commercial applications. But their glossy PR claims that this project was going to show the roadmap to certification for other companies was always laughable – they know research, but have no clue on cert.

  18. If American people is losing imagination for any potential progression and do away cut-and-try, we will be surly falling behind in the race.

  19. I use that statement all the time when trying to ‘splain’ to non-engneering types that “energy cannot be created nor destroyed … it merely changes it’s form.” And, “there’s no such thing as a perpetual motion machine.” All the eEverything zealots didn’t get that email, I guess?

    • Yes … I just didn’t spend $87 million with a 120% / $47 million overrun beyond the installation estimate on it and THEN not be able to use the toilet or wash my hands. Get serious, Don.

  20. Might be interesting to have less talking past each other, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.
    My main issue with large electric planes is why? I’ll never bet on never, if you know what I mean, but I think there’s a good consensus that electric automobiles are much more doable than electric planes. If you replaced most all the ICE cars with electric ones supplied with a much lower carbon source (on average), then would you really need to worry about Boeings and Airbusses? Wouldn’t we be effectively fixing the problem?
    Furthermore, the volume of light vehicles has this amazing way of speeding up new tech. Just compare the two industries and how much auto innovation has pushed plane innovation instead of the other way around. If we are going to get the needed tech, it will likely come from the auto industry than aerospace. Right?
    Last, do we really need drones carrying humans? It really wouldn’t take that much land use to put STOL ports around a major metro and fly people around with today’s technology yet we don’t do it. We don’t even think about doing it.
    If you ask me, the better research NASA might ought to do is how to get the government out of the business of destroying aviation before trying to add new ways to make planes which the FAA, IRS, municipalities, and many others are trying to keep out of the sky anyways.

    • IMHO, your comment wins and is most appropriate, Eric. Right now, the engine of choice for ME if I were building an airplane is the new Rotax 916iS. High auto technology at its finest.

      As I said above, at NASA Armstrong, one group is trying to develop technology to save the planet with electric aviation while another is trying to develop technology to do the opposite so fat cats with a lot of money can get to London faster. Catch-22 personified. Then, along comes Lillium with their DEFT contraption. The people at the top of aviation have lost their collective minds.

  21. The article does not mention batteries or energy density as a reason for the choice to end the program at the end of the year, only the fact that the path to airworthiness will take some time.

    As the well known aviation maintenance guru Irwin M Fletcher pointed out many decades ago, “Its all ball bearings nowadays”

    From another source reporting on the decision:
    “The choice of steel ball bearings in the aircraft’s two electric motors that were “lower grades than aviation” standards caused unforeseen issues, said NASA Glenn Research Center systems engineer Dave Avanesian at the time. Among other issues, the ball bearings were not properly seated, resulting in “pretty high levels of vibration,” he said.”

    “As we got into the detailed analysis and airworthiness assessment of the motors themselves, we found that there were some potential failure modes with the motors mechanically under flight loads that we hadn’t seen on the ground,” says Sean Clarke, principal investigator with the X-57 program. “The motor design had a couple of particular failure modes that show up through our detailed analysis that show that it could seize up in flight and … could be a safety hazard to our pilots.”

    • Really ? Using the wrong ball bearings in the motors ? Aircraft turbine engines all use ‘deep groove’ ball bearings to handle the thrust loads, so whoever developed the motors for this aircraft made a major mistake in the design.!!

      As far as battery capacity, as was mentioned, at least a 10x improvement in energy density is needed for any reasonable flight time.
      The current 100 kWhr Tesla battery weighs about 1,000 lb.
      This would allow a Cessna 172 with 100 kW motor to fly for 1 hour, with no reserve and only a light weight pilot, assuming the motor and controller weight about 200 lb less than the Lycoming engine.

    • OH … kinda like the bearing problems that surfaced in the BD-5A/B pusher and — later — the Cirrus VK-30, et al. NASA and the motor vendors didn’t see this coming?? That ALONE disqualified NASA from ever doing this sort of work again.

  22. The most popular talking point for battery aircraft supporters seems to be some version of “the Wright Brothers built airplanes that flew”.

    Respectfully, I would like to point out that while the story of the Wright Brothers may be inspiring, the fact they demonstrated powered flight first does not bear on the possibility of someone successfully creating a battery powered full equivalent of a Bonanza, or a CH-53. What does bear on that possibility are the statements of scientific mavens who repeatedly point out that the order of magnitude improvements in battery energy density needed are not possible.

    • Even if the battery technology progresses to where a 500 kWhr battery can replace the 300 lb. of fuel in a Cessna 172XP, to allow it to fly for 5 hours, there is still the RECHARGING problem.
      If airports had Tesla Superchargers of 250 kW, it would take at least 2 hours to recharge the battery.
      If the utility service was upgraded to 480 VAC, it would have to have 520 amps current capacity.
      The Tesla supercharges are $200k+ and then the utility co. will want another $150k or more, IF the local grid can handle the very high added load.!
      [ see the Ford dealer problems in Chicago, trying to get their mandated Fast DC chargers connected to the local grid! ]

  23. NASA. Government. Was that some more of our money pushing toward something we’re not ready for yet? Leave that for the private sector.

  24. Big Oil suppressed the necessary advanced eTech, but a video of its ancestor, the Turbo Encabulator can be googled/seen on youtube…hurry before “they” take it down.

    • Big oil also suppressed the turbine powered sedan which ran off of our most plentiful resource: coal. See:

    • Sadly, I have to explain that this is sarcasm…google or follow the link for Turbo Encabulator and have a chuckle…if anyone still has a sense of humor (or irony)

  25. The unintended consequences of ‘net zero:’

    Even the British are now realizing there was no cohesive plan … just kneejerk reactions!

  26. NOW I find out that Tecnam has suspended IT’s work on their ‘P-volt’ airplane:

    “It is reported that the electric aircraft technology available today is not advanced enough to be utilized for safe flight. This was reported shortly after Tecnam’s announcement stating that its own electrification project, the P-volt, is being suspended, citing similarly that the battery technology available was not economically viable for operations.”


    It’s time for the eAviation fanatics to get off their high horse and find something else to get behind … and STOP SPENDING OUR MONEY !! THIS issue is a TRAVESTY!!

    NASA Armstrong crashed the X-31 because it was a Friday and the airplane didn’t have ‘hot mike’ capability to allow the pilot to talk to the control room. They’ve now spent $87M to find out battery technology isn’t up to the task for aviation (which we all here knew and PB wrote about)… what’s next ? And the X-59 is duplicating work they already spent $$$ on with the SSBD airplane RIGHT THERE 20 years ago. What the … !

    Whoever is running that ‘asylum’ needs to step down. As a taxpayer, I’m deeply offended. I used to work with these people … what the heck has happened there now??