SAS: Wright Plans For “Electric 737”
Wright Electric, a San Los Obispo-based startup, aims to make every short commercial flight electric within 20 years by building what co-founder Jeff Engler calls their “electric 737.” Wright’s vision is a 150-seat, short-haul aircraft capable of serving routes under 300 miles. Engler told attendees at the Sustainable Aviation Symposium that Wright was inspired to reject energy density arguments by looking at data on the length of commercial flights around the world. While the energy density necessary to sustain commercial aircraft for long-haul flights is far beyond the reach of current battery technology, Engler told AVweb that roughly 30% of routes served by narrow-body jets are under 300 miles. Wright estimates that flying 300-mile routes will require a doubling of the power density available in today’s batteries (400 Wh/kg needed vs. 190 Wh/kg available now), which they believe will be commercially available in the coming decades. Wright’s airliner would carry about 60,000 pounds of batteries for a 300-mile flight.
While Boeing is much better equipped to embark on the task of building an electric airliner, Engler doesn’t believe they will. The history of disruptive innovation is such that market leaders tend to have difficulty introducing technology that would cannibalize their existing portfolio, Engler says, citing Kodak’s inability to lead the way in digital cameras as the canonical example. “I would love to see Boeing throw some money at this,” Engler told AVweb, but he’s not holding his breath.