Electric Planes Take Off

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates that 170 projects worldwide are focused on developing electric planes — double the number underway in 2018.

A report from NREL — one of the laboratories that serves the Department of Energy — predicts the market could see “strong growth starting in 2028,” when the first 50- to 70-seat electric aircraft are expected to appear.

“It’s exciting to see all the different approaches that are being pursued,” said Jesse Bennett, an engineer and lead author of the NREL report. Projects range from small aircraft used to train new pilots and carry cargo to slightly larger planes that could ferry passengers from rural and small-town areas to major U.S. airports, he said.

The U.S. is home to 5,050 smaller airports that could serve as a niche for electric planes, which could be used to quickly move passengers to the 30 major airports serving larger U.S. cities.

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