Research Projects

Electric Aircraft on the Horizon - Planning handbook for Airports In Reserve

Generate informed guidance for airports to plan for electric aircraft adoption. Electric aircraft could begin operating from airports within 3+ years. The aviation industry lacks a method to distinguish between marketing hype and realistic projections. A new ACRP report could provide help airports understand which sites are best suited for the viable technology associated with electric powered aircraft. Airports would gain insights regarding electric power demand scenarios and roles for airports assuming a direct supplier role. The handbook could benefits and trade-offs and introduce airport readers to the wide range of disruptions to standard practices associated with electric aircraft.


The useful research analysis could include:

1) An overview of the technology and general airport equipment requirements

2) Potential types of air service electric aircraft could cover, along with adoption rate scenarios for a range of airport types and regions

3) Ramifications for commercial service vs. general aviation airports

4) Power demand based on a range of charging options and number of aircraft

5) New airport potential revenue source by generating and supplying electricity

6) Relevant regional grid/utility regulations

7) General noise benefits

8) Air Quality emissions impact

Background (Describe the current situation or problem in the industry, and how your idea would address it.)

Electric aircraft offer tremendous opportunities for airports and also significant disruptions to existing practices. Design innovation for electrically powered and hybrid-electric planes is accelerating rapidly. New firms, such as Zunum and Wright Electric expect deployment in the next 2–5 years. In February 2018 Eviation announced a new design that could support 9-seater flights of over 600-mile distances. For the operational uses, where electric power is the optimal application, the new technology could displace existing aircraft equipment rapidly due to the operational cost advantages. Electric motors have far fewer moving parts than combustion engines and electric energy is lower cost than liquid fuels. Airports will likely play a major role in these developments.


Not all air service can be replaced by electricity. Batteries are at least 40x less energy dense as jet fuel or AvGas. Batteries are also heavy. Electric aircraft will fly more slowly than commercial fossil fuel powered jet engines. For short-haul freight and passengers, electric aircraft will likely be a game changer.


Electricity systems at airports will need the capacity to supply power at high voltage. Just a few "Level 3" fast-charging stations can consume as much power as an airport terminal building. Airports may have new roles to play regarding energy generation and transmission with airlines. Surrounding communities could benefit from the significant environmental advantages. Airports need effective guidance in order to be ready for change and to help influence the transition.

ACRP can advance useful guidance for airports to prepare for electric aircraft's introduction and integration into regular options.

Approach (Describe in general terms the steps you think are needed to achieve the objective.)

The approach should generate a robust evaluation of electric aircraft's potential to disrupt business as usual. To start,
the research team would need to evaluate the technology to determine which air service roles electric powered
aircraft could displace. Initial studies indicate that the significant operating cost savings would accelerate the
retirement of piston aircraft and short
-haul duty. This could be a significant development for General Av
iation with a
large percentage of aircraft operators shifting to electric in the next 10
-20 years. The research team should generate
scenarios based on reasonable assumptions for adoption of hybrids and fully electric and the types of flights that
could be
realistically replaced.
The research team should also assess the following:

  1. Scenarios for battery advances for narrowbodies and medium
    -haul coverage
  2. Locations/airports where the electric technology has the greatest potential for implementation
  3. E
    lectric charging power demands, safety considerations and airport role (e.g., loss of revenue from fuel sales)
  4. IPotential for airports serving as power generating stations and sellers of electrons to aircraft operators
  5. Assessment of the full range of
    environmental benefits and potential tradeoffs associated with shifting to electric
    including energy resilience, noise, and emissions gains
  6. Generate educational resources for range of airport stakeholders to quickly understand the implications and
    realistic adoption rate of electric flights.
Cost Estimate and Backup (Provide a cost estimate and support for how you arrived at the estimate.)

$450,000 for a number of in-
depth research components including a comprehensive assessment of electric aircraft
technology and near horizon developments, generating scenarios and running models to determine probabilities and
impacts for a number of potential timelines, analysis of the range of utility/grid considerations and how the airport
could contribute.

Related Research - List related ACRP and other industry research; describe gaps (see link to Research Roadmaps above), and describe how your idea would address these gaps. This is a critical element of a synthesis topic submission.

(ACRP) Report 158: Deriving Benefits from Alternative Aircraft
i Systems

(ACRP) Report 135: Understanding Airport Air Quality and Public Health Studies Related to Airports

(ACRP) Report 71: Guidance for Quantifying the Contribution of Airport Emissions to Local Air Quality

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Commercial Aircraft Propulsion and Energy
Systems Research: Reducing Global Carbon Emissions. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

NASA Electric Aircraft Test bed (NEAT) Development Plan
—Design, Fabrication, Installation, 2016

NASA Overview of NASA Electrified Aircraft Propulsion Research for Large Subsonic Transports, 2018

Electric Flight – Potential and Limitations, Martin Hepperle, German Aerospace Center, Institute of
Aerodynamics and Flow Technology

C. Friedrich and P.A. Robertson. "Hybrid-
Electric Propulsion for Aircraft", Journal of Aircraft, Vol. 52, No. 1
(2015), pp. 176-

B. Sarlioglu and C. T. Morris, "More Electric Aircraft: Review, Challenges, and Opportunities for Commercial
Transport Aircraft," in IEEE Transa
ctions on Transportation Electrification, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 54-
64, June 2015.

Xin Zhao, J. M. Guerrero and Xiaohua Wu, "Review of aircraft electric power systems and architectures," 2014
IEEE International Energy Conference (ENERGYCON), Cavtat, 2014, pp. 949-

Idea No. 78