Since it first took flight in 2012, the Boeing ecoDemonstrator program has accelerated innovation by taking promising technologies out of the lab and testing them in the air to solve real-world challenges for airlines, passengers and the environment.
The latest ecoDemonstrator is a Boeing-owned 777-200ER that will test about 30 projects that can make aviation safer and more sustainable.
Projects include technologies that improve sustainability and safety for the aerospace industry, including a water conservation system and technologies to improve operational efficiency. Other projects focus on efficiency, additive manufacturing, sustainable aviation fuel and an enhanced vision system for pilots.
A decade of accelerating innovation
230+ technologies tested, focused on:
- Enhancing safety
- Reduction in fuel use & emissions
- Operational efficiency
- Community noise
- Replacement of hazardous materials
- Sustainable materials
- Advanced aerodynamics
- Passenger experience
Battery-electric propulsion utilizes batteries and electric motors as a mechanism to propel the aircraft. In order to make this type of propulsion possible, wings and propellers are placed at locations that minimize drag and maximize lift which may differ from traditional propulsion.
While a battery-electric flight can only achieve a fraction of the range supported by a normal combustion engine, it has higher power-conversion efficiency (two to three times more efficient) and significantly lower maintenance requirements. Other benefits of electric propulsion include zero emissions during flight, significant noise level reduction, and shorter runways for takeoff and landing. The use of electric also lowers operating costs through reduced maintenance costs since there are far fewer moving parts. For example, Wisk’s air vehicle only has 12 moving parts!
There are two other significant categories of emissions to consider with battery-electric propulsion. The first is the emissions involved with the production of the battery. It is important that the battery technology is manufactured sustainably, including mitigating lifecycle emissions during the production process. The second is that the source of electricity used to charge the battery packs comes from renewable energy grids.
The key limitation with battery-electric propulsion is its low energy density (Wh/kg). To put this into perspective, Jet A fuel has an energy density of 12,000 Wh/kg while the most advanced batteries such as lithium-ion have the density of 200 Wh/kg at the pack-level. Even if you were to double the energy density to 400wh/kg, the pack-level will still not be sufficient to enable the ranges of our commercial core market products. This challenge is why the current battery technology only enables small payloads and short distances. Other key challenges include safety and certification activities as well as changes in current airport infrastructure.