By Special Correspondent Ryan Stancil, Washington, January 18, 2020
Commercial flight, for many, is a necessary evil. Because of the country’s size, it’s not always realistic to travel by car. Likewise, rail travel is limited when it comes to where you’re able to go in many places. So that leaves flying for many Americans.
And the numbers tell it all. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) handles over 16 million flights per year — roughly 44,000 per day — all day, every day. As you can imagine, a lot of work goes into moving people and cargo from one end of the country to the other. And with all of that travel comes the fuel that makes it possible. In 2018, U.S. airline companies used nearly 18 billion gallons of fuel.
That’s 18 billion gallons of fuel burned, turned into carbon emissions, and emitted into the air. That puts airlines among the worst polluters in the world and marks a bullet point in the debate over climate change. Not a day goes by without hearing about cars that are powered by something that isn’t gasoline, but you don’t hear much about that being the case for other modes of transport.
But the airline industry is already looking into alternatives. A new technology is an early contender for eventually replacing jet fuel when you need to get across the country. Technology with Sky-High Potential When it comes to electric cars, Tesla is the name most people immediately think of. For better or worse, CEO Elon Musk keeps his name in the news.
Bluue energy will not pollute the skies
It seems his name is always attached to one controversy or another. And he uses his celebrity to hype up his company’s products, including its electric batteries. What he doesn’t want to talk about is a technology being developed right in his own backyard. A technology he can do little to stop as it threatens the very foundation Tesla is built on.
About an hour and a half from Tesla’s headquarters in Palo Alto, California, a small company is developing airplanes that use a form of energy known as “blue gas” to take flight. This technology creates no emissions and doesn’t use fossil fuels. To Tesla’s disadvantage, it also doesn’t use heavy, expensive batteries. This means that any vehicle powered by blue gas will be lighter, and thus less expensive to build and operate. And these planes have already taken to the air.
The FAA recently approved test flights for the company, and its prototype six-seat plane is the largest zero-emission aircraft in the world that flies without any fossil fuel support.
Successful test flights have already been carried out and the next step is for small, regional trips of around 500 miles. That proves the technology works, and the company behind these planes is only going to scale up from there. It will eventually build larger aircraft in pursuit of making this technology more widely available.
While Tesla has nothing to do with aviation, the technology allowing these planes to take flight is still a threat to its business, because it already exists in cars. Leaving Tesla in the Dust Just about every car company you can think of has committed to selling vehicles that don’t rely on fossil fuels. Most of them, like Tesla, offer electric battery-powered options, but some are already catching on to this “blue gas” technology.
Cars using blue gas can get a range of 300 miles on a full tank, compared to around 250 that you would see from a Tesla. Likewise, filling one takes about as long as filling a standard combustion-engine car. Charging the battery in an electric car can take more than an hour before it reaches full capacity. And, as I mentioned, there’s the matter of weight.
Electric car batteries are heavy and add to the total cost of operating the vehicle. That isn’t something “blue gas” vehicles have to deal with. So it makes sense that car companies are looking at this new technology and starting to offer it alongside their electric options.
It also makes sense that these “blue gas” cars will one day phase out electric cars entirely. That day may very well mark the end of Tesla. Jimmy Mengel recently traveled to California to test this technology himself. He has the inside scoop on a company developing blue gas technology in a way that will put it at the front of the industry.