Norway Plans to Boost Electric Airplane Development

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Promo image. NASA

Norway won't rest on their laurels in the wake of headlines such as Sami's report last week that Norway hit 55% plug-in car sales. On the heels of that success, they are now looking to the skies.

The Norwegian government has told Avinor, the Norwegian administrator of state owned airports and navigation services, to focus on electric aircraft and biofuels in order to reduce the environmental footprint of the aviation industry. The Norwegian government already subsidizes most short air routes, generally less than 200 km, so this effort will funnel funds to promote development of electric powered options over distances that the industry can reasonably master in the short term. At least in Norway, the planes are probably not competing with train routes, due to the geography of the fjord-ruffled nation.

The aircraft majors, Boeing and Airbus, have both backed electric planes. Airbus announced a partnership with Siemens and Rolls-Royce to focus on hybrid and electric aircraft. And the Boeing-backed electric plane start-up Zunum Aero recently unveiled its plans, which include a project awarded by NASA to develop the Single-aisle Turboelectric Aircraft with Aft Boundary Layer propulsion (STARC-ABL, pictured above) among other initiatives.

These announcements, along with news such as EasyJet's announcement that they will have passengers in electric planes within a decade, indicate a resurgence in the excitement around the possibilities for battery-powered planes.

The momentum was lost for a couple of years after a battery fire temporarily grounded the Boeing 787 Dreamliner fleet and provoked Elon Musk to proclaim the lithium-ion battery architecture unsafe. In the meantime, a lot of study has helped to clarify precisely which factors contribute to unsafe battery construction and Boeing has replaced the batteries in their auxilliary power units (APUs) so the Dreamliners could be approved to fly again.

Now it appears the suppliers are ready to push the limits again, and they will need a market in order to succeed. Norway is signing up for a greener aviation future.