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How Have E-bikes Become So Popular?

This review comes courtesy of electricbikereport.com contributor Richard Peace. 

electrbikereport.com features hundreds of e-bike reviews, guides and a weekly news post to keep you abreast of all things e-bike 

I first got into e-bikes at the end of the last century – I was cycling thousands of miles a year compiling cycling guidebooks for my own company and cycling maps for local authorities; these were the days before digital mapping was widely available on smartphones. 

I saw a review in ‘alternative’ transport magazine A to B for something called a Powabyke. This weighed around 37kg and its three large lead acid batteries had a range of around 20-30 miles.

You may well laugh at the bulk and modest range, but I was often thankful to have it when work meant venturing into the steepest parts of the South Pennines on a windy winter’s day.  

I soon realised all the obvious benefits that you read about in e-bike introduction type articles were there, even using my 1999 e-bike; it was one of the fastest ways to get about in congested town traffic, hills and headwinds were no longer a problem, I got no sweat exercise and was even able to save bags of petrol cash by going car-free some of the time.

The only real limitations were weight and especially limited range. In practice neither proved a huge headache and both issues have since been largely overcome and haven’t been an issue on e-bikes for several years now.

Despite all this it’s only really in the last two or three years that that e-bikes have really taken off in the UK. What lies behind this rather confusing mismatch of timescales? 

Technological Milestones

Fast forward to today and this particular week I find myself reviewing the FLIT-16, a state-of-the-art folding e-bike. This weighs 15kg – not that much more than the weight of that original Powabyke’s battery alone. 

The steady advance of e-bike technology clearly demonstrated by this example has clearly been a major factor in their growing popularity (with more flops than successes in the early days). That advance has been marked by several vital milestones that have proven to be the bedrock of e-bikes’ current success:

1994: Yamaha’s PAS system is the first crank or mid drive machine rolled out nationally (in Japan). Similar technology is in use on the most efficient and powerful mid-drive machines today.

2000: Several notably relatively lightweight e-bikes launch – for example the Honda Step Combo weighs 18.7kg and is imported in limited numbers form Japan into Europe and the UK. 

Giant, probably the largest manufacturer of quality bikes in the world, launch a redesigned LaFree e-bike with a Panasonic mid-drive and Nickel-Metal hydride batteries. Again it helps the idea of e-bikes gain a toehold as practical effective machines in Europe and the UK. 

2002: Japan’s Panasonic introduce the world’s first commercially available lithium ion powered e-bike which is taken up by European e-bike companies in 2003 and also claim the world’s lightest e-bike at 16.9kg.

2011: Bosch launches its crank drive motor system that sets a new standard for power and efficiency. Other highly efficient and powerful mid-drive systems follow from Kalkhoff (2012) and Shimano (2013).   

More Options

If the last major technological advance in e-bikes was around nine years ago then clearly the steady progress of that technology doesn’t explain everything.

UK sales show a pretty fantastical acceleration of e-bikes in 2019 and 2020; after years of steady and usually single digit % growth the last two years have seen sales unit numbers increase by around 25% each year according to UK government import stats.

2020 stats showed around 120,000 e-bikes imported into the country (very few are made in the UK); of course 2020 was an exceptional year because of the pandemic but this phenomenal growth in e-bikes actually predates it. Whatever true reasons for this incredible sales surge, and as empty bike shops shelves around the country prove, there is a huge appetite out there for e-bikes. 

This is all against a background of the number of e-bike designs and the quality of the spec increasing year on year. Nowadays just about every kind of bike design you can imagine and more are available in various electric versions, from industrially specced cargo shifters capable of moving several hundred kg of goods to carbon-fibre-framed folders you can easily lift with one hand.  

As an example of just what is possible let’s take a look at a top of the line electric cargo bike from Riese and Muller’s 2021 range, the Packster 70.

The £5k+ price tag may have been unthinkable just a few years ago but so is the technology on display.

The massively powerful Bosch mid-drive motor augments your pedal power by a maximum 400%, there’s a huge carrying box that will take two children, a maximum battery capacity of 1250Wh, many times bigger than the original Bosch offerings of a decade ago, and high tech options like stepless gearing and a display that’s virtually a mini-computer with features such as automatic route navigation and mush else besides.

If I had been overtaken by this whilst riding my Powabyke in 1999 the technology would have appeared truly mind-boggling even if, in fact, it was just a huge refinement of technology that had already been invented. 

Much of this technology has trickled down to lower priced machines too – things considered luxury spec like hydraulic disk brakes and hardwired high power LED lighting are now essentially bog-standard mid-range e-bike fare.

Added to the fact there are more and more high quality drive systems and more and more quality e-bike manufacturers offering them and the growing success of e-bikes starts to look much less surprising. Recently a new wave of small, lightweight hub motor systems have lead to a rash of ever lighter e-bikes with e-road and e-folders in particular developing from the improving technology.  

Big Backers Pushing Value for Money

At the other end of the spectrum there are more budget e-bikes on offer, with the likes of Halfords and Decathlon now offering seriously good value and slickly-designed sub-£1000 machines backed by solid guarantees and their own reputations as longstanding companies.

This is miles away from the early days of the industry in the UK which was dominated by smaller, sometimes here today and gone tomorrow operators often selling distinctly Heath-Robinson looking machines. That £500 you would have needed to buy a Powabyke in 1999, in today’s money, would now get you a much lighter Decathlon electric mountain bike with disk brakes and a good sized lithium ion battery and the riding experience itself would be immeasurably better. 

An oft-repeated complaint in my many conversations with those who approached me whilst riding an e-bike was the price; avid interest soon waned when I revealed what it was (“I could get a motorbike for that” is typical of the replies).

But my own studies of the e-bike market show that typical prices have stayed much the same, allowing for inflation. What has changed is what you get for the money, with the technology and design of modern machines clearly representing much better value.

And as the success of the likes of Riese & Muller demonstrate, the UK market is no longer ‘price sensitive’ and UK customers will pay a premium once they are convinced of the usefulness, value and longevity of the product.  No doubt it also helps that the likes of German firms Riese & Muller and Bosch now have their own technical and sales backup teams in the UK to support the ever growing dealer network.  

Lessons for Electric Cars?        

The Honda E – an electric car that has won hearts, but not minds

It’s a tempting exercise to ask what the nascent electric car industry in the UK can learn from the eventual runaway success of e-bikes.

Of course there are pitfalls, the least of which is that I am not an electric car expert. To me though it seems the advantages of adding electric power to a bike are perhaps more immediately obvious than swapping petrol for electric power on a car. With a bike you get a vehicle still free to use on the roads and one that is powered by only a few pence worth of electricity. Perhaps the undoubted advantages of going from petrol to electric cars are less immediately obvious to the buying public.

The e-bike experience suggests to me not only that the right technology must be in place and be capable of doing what people expect it to do, but that it needs refining and then marketing. Education as to its advantages also plays a huge role here too. It took years in the UK to convince not only the public but many, many dealers and even some bike manufacturers themselves that electric was truly the future and that process is clearly just beginning with electric cars.

One thing e-bikes and electric cars do have in common though is that once people have taken the plunge and bought one very very few want to go back – aside of all the well-rehearsed practical arguments, going electric, as e-bike and car drivers will tell you, is just so enjoyable it’s addictive.  

Survey shows less than 1% of EV drivers want to go back to gas

The poll, conducted in November by chargepoint location site Zap-Map, asked users if they would switch back to an ICE vehicle. 91% gave a firm no, with 8% of respondents saying maybe. Just 1% asserted that they missed petrol. 

Zap-Map’s community poll received 2,111 responses, the majority of whom were first-time EV drivers, over half having purchased their vehicle within the last year. BEVs actually received a higher overall satisfaction score than hybrids, with an average of 92 and 84 respectively. Both types of electric vehicles received better average scores than ICE vehicles.

The survey also asked about car models – two PHEVs, the Kia Niro and the BMW 3 saloon, received a 100% satisfaction score, and so did the fully electric Volkswagen ID.3, which we picked as the most important EV of the decade:

Other high scorers included the Tesla Model 3, the Kia e-Nero, and the Hyundai KONA electric. Zap-Map’s co-founder, Melanie Shufflebotham, commented on the significance of the data, which shows higher satisfaction rates with electric vehicles than ever before, despite what a year 2020 has been. 

It’s clear that many of the historical challenges of owning and running an EV have fallen away. 

Melanie Shufflebotham

There are some caveats, of course – the fact that most respondents were recent adopters probably biases them, as they’re still enamoured with their shiny new car. On top of that, we’re still at a stage where most EV drivers are already enthusiasts (Electroheads, if you will), rather than casual drivers, who might come in with more gripes. Nonetheless, these results show how the idea that going electric means compromising for a worse driving experience couldn’t be further from reality. 

Maybe a decade ago, driving an EV was a purely environmental decision and a case of enduring the downsides. But now that charging is more mainstream, vehicles are more affordable, and cars are not only keeping pace but outperforming their gas-guzzling predecessors, this is a good sign that it won’t be long before fossil fuels are as outdated as the dinosaurs they’re made of.

VW reveals working prototype of a robot that can charge EVs completely autonomously

Volkswagen Group Components have been working on the concept for a long time, but now hope that the charging robot will be usable in spaces like underground car parks within a few years.

In a 44-second trailer, which feels a little more like a Pixar teaser than a technology reveal, incongruously dramatic music plays over shots of gleaming metal, panning out to reveal a cute white cuboid with friendly light-up cartoon eyes. We see it glide across the floor, insert its arm into a charging slot, and… not much else, with the video ending on a promise of “more to come”.

According to VW’s press release, the R2D2-esque robot can be started with an app or Car-to-X communication. It does the rest totally autonomously, steering to the vehicle and effectively dragging a ‘battery wagon’ with it, communicating with the car to open the charging socket and connect the plug for 50kW DC charging. It’ll then be able to go and sort out other cars before returning when your vehicle is fully charged, decoupling the charger and trundling off to its next job.

The big deal here is the potential this tech has to make any space in a car park into a BEV charging spot… in theory. Having a working prototype is one thing, and trusting a robot to reliably steer around the chaos of how some people park their cars is quite another. I’ve got visions of Roombas getting stuck on the stairs and beeping for help like lost kittens – and those aren’t subjected to the randomness and vandalism of the general public. 

Furthermore, although VW haven’t made any statements about how widespread they expect to make these bots, it doesn’t seem likely they’ll become something you can rely on finding in every big Sainsbury’s underground car park. Still, in places where the robots are implemented, it would mean you could turn up to a busy car park, nab the first empty space you see, and leave your EV to sort itself out, which would be a welcome change.

VW’s press release keenly emphasises that the charging robot is one of several DC charging solutions they’re developing simultaneously – perhaps anticipating comments that this technology looks set to arrive just as wireless charging could make it redundant.

Chinese startup Xpeng, accused of stealing from Tesla, debuts electric SUV in Europe

One hundred samples of the G3, a compact SUV crossover, have been delivered to buyers across Norway this week, with more to be introduced to the rest of Europe in 2021.

Until recently, Xpeng have only been delivering to the Chinese market, but they’re now expanding their ambitions. The huge appetite for EVs in China also recently gave new life to British sports car icons of the past, MG. We covered the born-again MG EV in our latest video:

Xpeng’s cars are being distributed to new owners across Norway, including north of the Arctic Circle, which will certainly test the vehicle’s reliability in extreme weather conditions. 

Xpeng likely chose the Scandinavian country for its soft international launch due to its strong market for EVs and existing infrastructure. The feedback on the car, including its English-language UI and AI, will inform the G3’s saleability in other Western markets.

The G3 isn’t Xpeng’s only vehicle – they launched the newer P7 sports saloon, currently only available in China, in June 2020, and will reportedly release two new models in 2021 and 2022. G3, incidentally, is short for ‘Geek3’. The name was chosen via a contest, but Xpeng have wisely chosen to downplay that part, at least in the Western market, where it would be a pretty bold label.

The startup attracted controversy in 2019, thanks to a still-ongoing lawsuit filed by Tesla against a former Autopilot engineer, Guangzhi Cao, who quit to join Xpeng. Tesla’s claim is that Cao downloaded their source code to his personal device, and sold it to Xpeng when he joined. Cao actually does admit to downloading some of the code, but claims he deleted it before leaving Tesla.

Xpeng founder Henry Xia has admitted that Tesla had an influence on him, and it’s pretty clear in the interior of the G3, with the UI design a near-identical ripoff. But considering Tesla effectively opened up its patents six years ago, it’s odd that they would then sue the company that was reportedly first to take them up on this. 

On the other hand, though, Tesla’s statement does specify the company’s patents can be used “in good faith”, not to manufacture “knock-offs”. It doesn’t specify how close a resemblance to Tesla’s products is acceptable, and that’s probably adding complications to this drawn-out squabble. 

The Xpeng G3 in Norway has a starting price of 358,000 NKr (£30,300). 

Elon Musk tweets vague confirmation that Tesla Superchargers will be available to other EVs

In typically abrupt fashion, Tesla’s CEO replied to a question about why other carmakers aren’t using the company’s technology. “They are, although it’s kind low-key. Tesla Superchargers are being made accessible to other electric cars.”, Elon tweeted in response. 

It’s unclear what exactly he means by that; whether this is an operation that’s currently underway, or just a plan for the future. ‘Low-key’ suggests Tesla are working with at least one other manufacturer who haven’t yet announced their use of Superchargers. If so, one likely candidate would be Aptera, as they used an image of a Tesla connector in one of their promotional videos – but they are still in the early stages of production, so that glimpse is no promise of the final product. 

Tesla actually opened up its patents to its competitors as long ago as 2014 – but there’s been radio silence since then, with no automakers seeming to take up the offer. Of course, getting to use Tesla’s technology wouldn’t come as an act of charity, and doing so would mean competing EV makers tacitly admitting that Tesla does charging better than them. And, as always, the small print is more complex, implying that the company would have to allow Tesla unfettered access to its own IP in return. 

It’s possible Elon is merely referring to the recent flaw that occurred when Tesla switched their EU Superchargers to use the standard CCS connectors – briefly, other EVs were able to use the new chargers for free, thanks to a bug. More likely, though, is that the same switch that caused the bug has made it easier to integrate other types of EV to the Tesla network, at least in Europe. 

In the US, non-Tesla owners wanting access to the Superchargers would need an adaptor. Tesla might be planning to switch the CCS in the US as well, but this would be an unpopular move with many Tesla maniacs, for whom the aesthetically pleasing charger design is one of the many selling points they see as superior.

Some Tesla drivers reacted to the tweet with trepidation, as opening up Superchargers to other cars would mean a major increase in demand and wait times for the faster network. On the other hand, many recognised that it would be a step forward, especially in the US, for high-speed charging to become standardised. As one Reddit user put it:

There is no Toyota gas pump. There is no Ford gas pump. A gas pump is a gas pump. (…) The Tesla Supercharging network could be like any company selling fuel but instead selling electricity for EVs. The stalls are always full? Build more stalls.

maxhac03

It’s certainly true that too much demand for EV charging would only be a positive change in the long run. However, as with all of Elon’s remarks, it’s probably best to take this one with a really, really big grain of salt.

Biden to build 550,000 EV charging stations and create 1 million clean energy jobs

According to Joe Biden’s website, the US President-Elect intends to ‘make major public investments in automobile infrastructure — including in 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations’, and ‘create millions of jobs producing clean electric power’. 

Although the policy itself isn’t new information, as it was part of his platform as a candidate, Biden’s transportation and energy policies were somewhat overshadowed by… you know, everything else going on during the US election. However, with the news that former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm is the expected pick for Secretary of Energy, that promise looks a lot more hopeful, as Granholm has been a strong voice for the EV movement.

As governor of the auto capital of the US, Michigan, Granholm secured $1.35 billion in federal funding for the state to manufacture electric vehicles and batteries. She sits on the board of electric bus company Proterra, and has pushed for the US to keep pace with China and the EU in electrification, where the nation currently lags behind. Currently, there are about 90,000 public charging plugs in the US – and one-fifth of them are exclusive to Tesla. Biden’s policy, if successful, would multiply that by five times. 

Granholm will be supported by Transportation Secretary pick Pete Buttigieg, whose own platform as a presidential candidate was environmentally focused, also mentioning investment in EVs. But it will still be a tough job for the Biden administration to persuade Congress to pay for the plan, which would cost billions – not only to build hundreds of thousands of charging stations, but also to make major upgrades to the US electricity grid to ensure it has the capacity to handle EV charging. 

We all know how reliable political promises are, but, as with so many other issues, it would at least be a swift U-turn from the Trump administration, which boosted oil and gas in the name of “energy dominance” and rejected electric-friendly policies. 

Currently, the lack of reliable charging across the US is one of the major barriers that keeps the average buyer from considering an electric car, especially outside of major cities. Biden’s policy, coupled with greater availability of affordable EVs for American consumers, would give drivers in the car-dominated land of the free the freedom to make climate-friendly transport decisions.

Nissan’s Ariya EV will be produced for the EU in Japan, not Britain

Accounts vary as to whether the Japanese carmaker cites Brexit as the reason for its decision.

Ah, Brexit: the gift that keeps on giving. Or perhaps taking away. For, as fears of a no-deal outcome loom ever closer, Nikkei Asia has learned that Nissan has already made the decision to ship its newest BEV to European buyers from Japan, instead of making use of its Sunderland plant.

According to Nikkei’s initial report, the company’s decision comes as a direct result of Brexit fears, but Nissan have since disagreed, saying that it was always the plan to produce the Ariya in Japan’s Tochigi plant: 

You take many factors into account when deciding where it is most reasonable to produce a vehicle and these decisions are made years in advance.

Nissan spokeswoman Azusa Momose

The Ariya, coming in 2021, is the first globally available BEV from Nissan since the Leaf was launched in 2010. Expected to cost around £40,000, it’s the company’s first all-electric SUV, with a top range of 310 miles, following in the footsteps of the hugely successful Qashqai and Juke. 

Thanks to an economic partnership agreement, Japan currently has a 7.5% import tariff for automobiles coming to the EU. But a no-deal Brexit would mean that British exports face a steeper 10% tariff. 

The EU is the Sunderland plant’s biggest customer, with over 70% of its cars currently being exported there. Just last week, a Nissan source told the BBC that no-deal would threaten Nissan Europe’s entire business model, and implicitly the continued existence of the Sunderland factory: “There’s no Plan B.” 

The Brexit transition period ends on the 31st of December, and currently, no free trade agreement has been signed. Sunderland, where Nissan employs about 7000 people, voted Leave in 2016 by a margin of 61%.

Aptera Motors crowdfunds over $3 million for the solar-powered EV with a 1000-mile range

You’d be forgiven for thinking this outrageously futuristic three-wheeled beast is a game dev’s creation from Cyberpunk 2077, but it’s the very real Aptera EV – and they just smashed their funding goal to hit the road by 2021.

In a 12-day fundraiser, helped along by a viral video hit, Aptera Motors ended with a total of $3,369,622, raised by over 4000 investors. The company sold out of its two mainline models, the Paradigm and Paradigm+, on the first day of funding (although you can still reserve a custom model with a $100 deposit). 

If the name Aptera sounds familiar, it’s because this isn’t their first time at the rodeo. The startup launched in 2006 with a similar concept, creating a prototype in 2008. But they ran out of money and folded, reimbursing investors when they couldn’t deliver, thanks to a denied loan from the US Department of Energy. This time around, the startup’s relying on crowdfunding and the viral power of their eye-catching design to succeed.

Technically classed as a ‘motorcycle or auto-cycle’, due to its three wheels, Aptera’s launch video explains the pride they take in their difference from “boxy” cars. The two-seater vehicle was designed with an emphasis on aerodynamics and efficiency, which is how their highest-performing battery can apparently hit an extraordinary range of 1000 miles. Supposedly, the ‘all-wheel drive’ can handle snow and adverse weather, though we’ve yet to hear an objective account of its handling, nor an official safety rating.

The real selling point, however, is Aptera’s “never charge technology”, featuring solar cells all over the body of the vehicle. The claim is that the battery can top itself up while parked in a sunny spot, gaining back up to 40 miles this way – so if you’re an average commuter in the western US, you’d theoretically never have to charge the battery, as the car would perform its own upkeep. 

Of course, as I glance outside at another miserable winter’s day in Britain, this isn’t exactly applicable to a large part of the world, which is why it’s a relief that it can still be charged the regular way at a charging station – or even via a wall outlet, albeit much slower. Still, according to the solar calculator on Aptera’s site, if you live in the southern UK and drive 30 miles a day, you’d need to charge the battery only 3 times a year. That’s undeniably worth the price of admission, if it proves true. 

Aptera’s starting price for their 250-mile range model is $25,900 – about £19,000 – and the top-performing Paradigm+ clocks in at $44,900 (about £33,000), although it’s already sold out. There are a lot of promises to be delivered on when it comes to the reality of this vehicle, and we can’t forget that Aptera Motors have burned out before. But EV technology has come a long way in the past decade, so if you like the idea of turning heads and catching rays in this lightweight, zippy vehicle, you can still put in your $100 reservation to get in on the action.

Amazon reveals the Zoox autonomous e-taxi, with no steering wheel and 16 hours of battery

‘Zoox’ may sound like the villain from a straight-to-VHS Toy Story ripoff, but it’s actually a six-year-old self-driving startup purchased by Amazon in June. They’ve just revealed the prototype of a FSD bi-directional electric taxi, with no steering wheel and a huge battery life.

The vehicle is a mint-green box with large protruding tyres, and looks a bit like a child’s drawing of a car. You’d be forgiven for mistaking it for the Citroen Ami, another not-quite-car that’s looking to change the face of shared transport:

But in a video released on Monday, CEO Aicha Evans and CTO Jesse Levinson demonstrated using their app to hail a prototype Zoox taxi and go for a ride around San Francisco, showcasing their confidence in the vehicle’s autonomous driving. 

Zoox’s taxi features a motor at each end and four-wheel steering, meaning it can travel in either direction, at a maximum of 75 mph. ‘Sensor pods’ on each corner have a 270-degree field of vision. At a mini 3.63m long, the interior is maxed out to allow four passengers seated face-to-face, reminiscent of a train carriage. The battery pack is a massive 133 kWh, which will allow it to drive day and night, for up to 16 hours on a single charge. 

The company has focused on highlighting safety, stating that the Zoox taxi has “over 100 safety innovations not featured in conventional cars”, including an airbag that envelops passengers from all sides. And if needs be, Zoox can take manual control remotely, communicating with passengers in real time. You’ll also have the option to blur images captured by the on-board camera, if privacy is a concern.

Zoox is far from the first to promise fully self-driving taxis in the near future, but as we’ve covered, the gap between aspiration and reality seems to be prolonging delays. “Autonomous driving is hard, because you have to get hundreds, if not thousands, of things right at the very same time. But if you do all that, it actually feels pretty easy,” says Levinson in the video voiceover. Hmm. Profound? 

Currently, the company hasn’t specified when the taxis are going into operation, except that it wouldn’t be as soon as 2021. There’s no confirmed price point as of yet, but it’s described as “affordable”, pitched to compete with Uber and the like. The vehicles are currently being tested in various US cities, so provided that Zoox’s safety promises hold true, it could soon be possible to hail a ride home from a night out without subjecting an unamused driver to your drunken singing.

Fully electric aeroplanes are on the horizon

In Australia, the electrification specialists Magnix have modified the first all-electric, zero-emission drive aircraft approved for national use.

The Cessna 208 Caravan is a nine-seater aircraft, usually used for pilot training, commuter flights, and freight. So it’s hardly a jumbo jet, but Magnix’s modified version of the Caravan already set records as the largest electric plane ever to complete its maiden flight without a hitch last May in the US. The Australian modification needs to complete certification by the country’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority, which is likely to take them until 2023. When completed, though, it would mean partner Sydney Seaplanes could use an electric Cessna in place of an ordinary one at any given time. 

So far, so inconsequential-sounding, if small domestic flights in Oz don’t play a major role in your life, which I suspect is the case for most of us. The significant bit, basically, is that at the moment, electric planes are generally only privately available. Slovenian maker Pipistrel is on the forefront of developments, with their Velis Electro two-seater becoming the first electric plane to receive European approval earlier this year, and the Alpha Electro similarly approved for purchase in the US (provided you already have a pilot’s license and $140,000 going spare). 

If the Cessna passes its two-year test, it would set a precedent for completely electric planes approved for use on a regular commercial basis – one we’d hope other nations would follow. 2020 has seen an increase in electromobility interest from airlines, probably anticipating further carbon restrictions in the near future. JetBlue has invested $250 million into electric aviation over the last three years, and EasyJet has plans for a fleet of electric planes covering shorter routes by 2030. Even the US military has its boot in the door, providing funding and testing for electric cargo drones. 

Much like cars, it’s expected that electric planes will eventually work out cheaper, thanks to fewer moving parts, less maintenance, and of course electricity working out much cheaper than jet fuel. But building all-new planes and getting them approved is an unsurprisingly lengthy and expensive process. 

There have already been a few bumps in the road. Eviation’s all-electric Alice prototype caught fire during ground tests in January, likely due to overheating batteries – which we guess is better than bursting into flames in the sky, but still a bit alarming.

And, of course, even successful models like the Cessna are only suitable for short flights in small aircrafts, which don’t make up the majority of the aviation industry’s net 2% contribution to global CO2 emissions. As such, it’s probably hybrids that will make the real difference to airline travel – but we’ve got a long way to go before any of this is the norm.