10 years ago, electric cars seemed like something of a distant future; now they're everywhere. Tesla was one of the first companies to start the hype and now almost all car manufacturers present more and more electric cars. If we've come along this far with cars can we translate the concept to planes? Can we just stuff some batteries into our planes and replace the turbines with electric engines? Let’s have a look at the future of electric aviation and its potential to make flying green.
When one thinks of green energy, solar power is one of the first forms of production that comes to mind. We can power our houses, charge our phones and even run a cinema with the sun, can't we use it to fly around as well? Well, yes and no.
Not so long ago we managed to fly around the world in a solar-powered aircraft. Everyone had their doubts: Would the plane take off? Would it be able to finish its trip around the world? Well, it did but rather slowly. It took pilots Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg 505 days to complete the journey. For most distances, the solar plane defied the idea of flying — you know, speed — because its cruise speed was much lower. What is more, the plane had a wingspan close to a jumbo jet but would only carry one person: the pilot. So in order for solar-powered air travel to become commercially viable, we would need to develop some extraordinary solar panels and more efficient planes.
You could argue that not all electric cars don’t run on solar panels but rather batteries. So can we just put some batteries, similar to the ones in cars, in our planes? The most crucial difference between ground and air travel comes into play when considering electric planes. When you're traveling on the ground the weight of the vehicle is not your most crucial concern. The energy is mainly used to move the car forward and work against the wind resistance. This isn't the case for airplanes. A large portion of the energy is used to lift the plane up in the air. In fact, the heavier is the plane the more energy is needed. It is therefore important that the fuel doesn't make the plane significantly heavier.
When it comes to fuel, the way to measure it is the energy density, which describes how much energy you can store per weight unit. Sadly batteries have a much lower energy density by 14 to 40 compared to kerosene. So if we were to put batteries on planes they would get much heavier and – if they flew at all – carry less weight. And there is a further drawback: with kerosene airplanes, fuel is burned during a flight so the plane gets lighter over course of the travel. Batteries, however, keep their weight which means higher energy consumption through the flight and a much bumpier landing. An electric aircraft would need a considerable increase in battery capacity and performance; according to industry projections, this doesn't seem like it's going to be happening in the coming few years.
At this moment in time, electric planes are no feasible alternative in commercial aviation if we don’t want to put them on a power cord, but surely someone thought the Wright Brothers were also bound to fail. All hope is not lost on the future of flying green, we just need to get creative.
This article was written by Eric Schuler for Kinder World in light of the upcoming Kinder Conversations event on the future of green aviation: The Sky Has a Limit. Schuler is a PhD candidate at the University of Amsterdam and works on new industrial sustainable chemistries to turn captured CO2 into useful things such as plastics or fuel. He's also a photojournalist with an interest in climate and land-use change.
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Last week, David Gilmour, lead singer of the legendary band Pink Floyd, announced he would be auctioning off 126 guitars from his personal collection. The news wasn’t only exciting for guitar aficionados, but climate activists alike since Gilmour pledged to donate all of the income from the auction to a climate crisis charity.
The final amount after the auction was finalised was 21 million dollars, all of which Gilmour is donating to Client Earth, a non-profit organisation that is using legal action to battle climate crisis.
Gilmour said: “ The global climate crisis is the greatest challenge that humanity will ever face, and we are within a few years of the effects of global warming being irreversible. I hope that the sale of these guitars will help ClientEarth in their cause to use the law to bring about real change. We need a civilised world that goes on for all our grandchildren and beyond in which these guitars can be played and songs can be sung.”
Not everyone can donate 21 million dollars as Gilmour did, yet every penny towards our fight against climate change counts. If you, too, want to have a small contribution towards protecting our planet, consider donating to Cool Earth below. Cool Earth works with local rainforest communities and halts deforestation, protecting the very trees that are natural carbon offsetters.
On June 20th, the Amsterdam City Council joined over 600 local governments around the world, including London, Auckland, Prague, Milan, Quebec City, and declared climate crisis. The Netherlands branch of the climate activist group Extinction Rebellion had demanded that the city recognizes the climate crisis by way of a protest, a funeral procession for the city of Amsterdam, three days prior to the decision.
The declaration came after Sylvana Simons of the political party Bij1 gave a speech about the urgency of the climate crisis and the need to acknowledge the city’s duties. Simmons said:
“We are in an unprecedented ecological disaster. The climate crisis is already the end of the way of life and the lives of many people. Young climate change leaders, Extinction Rebellion activists and concerned citizens throughout the world are right to make themselves heard and demand that politicians take the necessary measures to combat the climate crisis. By declaring a climate emergency as the first Dutch city we send a clear signal that Amsterdam hears them and will do everything in its power to deal with this crisis. ”
Following the city's recognition of the climate crisis and a motion by Jaspar Groen, a councillor with the green party GroenLinks, the municipality has also proposed a climate clock showing Amsterdam's carbon emissions and how much the city has got left in its carbon budget.
There is no denying that the plant-based and animal product free food sector is rapidly growing. Every day, there is news of a well-known chain releasing a plant-based alternative to their traditionally meaty offers, or a big food conglomerate investing in plant-based options, or a new exciting company that is producing some sort of meat, dairy, or poultry alternative.
Proveg is an international food awareness organisation raising awareness about the benefits of a plant-based diet for the planet, animals, and the humankind. The organisation has been very instrumental in making animal-product-free diets mainstream and has started a startup incubator programme in 2018. The programme, first of its kind, supports emerging innovative startups with the goal of reducing animal product consumption. Here are five exciting startups from their equally exciting list of cohorts.
The first lab-grown meat product might have been a burger but the clean meat field has grown a lot since 2013 when Mark Post and his team served the $300,000 burger. That cultured meat is the next big thing is news to approximately no one but this doesn’t mean we can’t still be excited about the budding innovations. To me, ClearMeat is one such exciting cultured meat prospect. Based in India, ClearMeat is on its way to produce the world’s first chicken mince and move on to products such as tandoori chicken and chicken tikka masala from there. Chicken is the main source of animal protein in India and as the country's population steadily grows and the people's economic power with it, chicken consumption also seems to be growing rapidly. ClearMeat’s goal is to provide sustainable, healthy, and affordable meat alternatives to a growing population.
I love a good mushroom. They’re easy to cook, delicious in and of themselves, and have many species that are different but equally tasty — one might even say they’re magic. Mushlabs is employing the magic of the mushrooms and applying it to producing sustainable sustenance in an ingenious way. You might be thinking portobello burgers and mushroom mince, but instead, Mushlabs takes the roots of mushrooms and uses fermentation to produce a protein-, fiber-, and micronutrient-rich ingredient. The production process of Mushlabs uses indoor farming systems that employ vertical stacks to grow plants. Because they are stacked, vertical systems take up considerably less land and, because they are controlled environments, require less water. This makes the potential negative environmental impact of Mushlabs proteins comparably lower than it’s animal counterparts and even plant proteins. Mushlabs might soon be the answer to the questions vegans get the most: “But where do you get your protein?”
3) Legendairy Foods
Numerous people in numerous labs are on the journey to produce meat without the slaughter and intensive farming of animals but the animal farming industry doesn’t end with just meat. Although plant-based milks are on the rise even with non-vegan consumers, dairy is still very much part of the majority of people’s diet. Legendairy Foods is aiming to give people dairy milk without the destructive environmental and ethical consequences. Through a fermentation process, LegenDairy Foods transform microorganisms and sugar into milk protein and then on to dairy products. Dairy milk without cows. From anecdotal evidence, cheese seems to be the one thing people feel like they can’t give up when the topic of going vegan comes up. To me, real cheese without real cows seems to be the perfect solution to that.
Russian startup Greenwise, produces plant-based meat alternatives — meat and jerky — that are structurally almost identical to meat. Their products look, feel, and chew like real meat. Amongst the five companies, Greenwise is the one that I actually got to taste the products of and I can attest to their claim. Their plant-based meat comes in dry form and you can cook it any way you like. It absorbs the taste of whatever you decided to cook it with very well, be it broth spices or a sauce. I think GreenWise is making way in a relatively underdeveloped side of plant-based meat production. A side that is quickly growing with companies like Beyond Burger taking off in terms of media and consumer attention. That is, producing plant-based meat for meat eaters. The products of Greenwise are made to replace meat in dishes without having to compromise on taste or texture. They appeal to a fast-growing consumer base of environmentally or ethically conscious people who want to reduce their impact but not ready to give up meat.
5) Better Nature
I first discovered tempeh as a delicious protein source upon moving to the Netherlands. Tempeh is a soy product (although it can be made with other beans as well) that is made by fermenting cooked beans into a cake-like solid block. It’s a rich source of B12 (a vitamin everyone and not just non-meat eaters often lack), protein and dietary fibres. Tempeh originates from Indonesia and is a staple in SouthEast Asian cooking, thus thanks to the large Indonesian community in the Netherlands it’s very easy to find here, you can find it in almost all supermarkets. However, I was surprised to learn that it’s not at all this common or well known in other parts of the world, even the most cosmopolitan ones. Better Nature wants to change this and be the company responsible for making tempeh mainstream. They are taking this ancient food and applying contemporary scientific methods to it in order to make it even tastier and richer in protein and vitamin B12. The result is an affordable and nutritious food product that is at the same time much better for our planet compared to animal proteins.