While the experimental flights of Solar Impulse, the solar-powered two-person aircraft, and Antares, the motorised glider, will inspire the aircraft of the future, there is one that has quietly kicked off the era of electric planes—the 330LE. The frame is built by Extra Flugzeugbau and the electric-powered motor is built by Siemens, both German companies. The 330LE’s airframe is already certified for sale and its motor is in line for it. Thus, when a 330LE with a 50 kg engine—as opposed to the 201 kg engine on a 330L aircraft—left the ground on July 4, electric flight had truly taken off.
Though the bulky batteries—that, at the moment, offer 20 minutes of flight—offset 330LE’s light design, with battery technology making phenomenal leaps, the 330LE could be the hominid to the 60-100-seater electric aircraft that Siemens wants to put in the skies by 2030, in collaboration with Airbus. If the batteries were to solely store electricity generated from renewable sources, emissions could come down substantially. For the airline industry, long blamed for a significant chunk of annual emissions, this would be an added bonus.