41 total viewsRyan Whitwam
The days of the internal combustion engine may be numbered as electric vehicles continue to proliferate, but airplanes and their polluting engines are going to be harder to replace. A startup called Beta Technologies is one of several making progress toward fully electric air travel, and it’s got a new vehicle in the works. After focusing on an electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, the company has announced a fixed-wing version that could be flying passengers sooner than you think.
According to Beta, it has already logged over 22,000 test miles (35,405 kilometers) with the CX300. Unlike the company’s ALIA-250 eVTOL, the CX300 uses a fixed-wing design to take off and land like a conventional aircraft; thus, it’s known as an electric conventional takeoff and landing (eCTOL) vehicle.
The Vermont-based Beta has managed to move quickly with its eCTOL craft because it’s based on the eVTOL design it has been working on for several years. Both vehicles have a rear-facing propeller for forward thrust, but the eVTOL version has four wing rotors that give it vertical takeoff and landing capabilities. They have a 50-foot wingspan and enough room for five passengers and a pilot.
A VTOL aircraft is theoretically more flexible, capable of taking off and landing in any open, flat space. However, most air passengers are going from one airport to another, and the regulations for conventional airplanes are well-established. Beta Technologies believes the CX300’s fixed-wing design offers an easier path to full regulatory certification as it would slot into today’s existing infrastructure. This would give companies an easy route to reducing carbon emissions from air travel.
Credit: Beta Technologies
Already, the CX300 has gone through a preliminary certification review by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). It’s the only electric aircraft to fly through Class B and C airspace, which is the busiest in the US. Beta submitted a Type Certification application to the FAA last year, and it expects to have the approval to begin delivering aircraft to fulfill its first customers in 2025.
Helicopter services company Bristow Group has ordered 50 CX300s after previously purchasing eVTOL craft from Beta. United Therapeutics, which transports medical samples and organs for transplant, has ordered an unspecified quantity. Air New Zealand has also placed an order for three CX300s with the option to add 20 more. Beta is also building out a DC fast-charging network at airfields across the US, augmenting the plane’s middling 386-mile range. It plans to have 150 chargers online by the time it begins shipping.
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