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Gas Plane Engines vs Electric Plane Engines

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After 2 votes the winner is ...
oromagi
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Contender
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Description
I currently go to a school that is a mix between a Pilot Training program as well as an Unmanned Aircraft Systems program. It's built right on the towns airport so naturally it is a pretty decent place to go to school for pilot training.
Yesterday I received an email from the schools director that during their "Courageous Conversations" session, students mentioned that they want to reduce the carbon footprint. One of their suggestions was replacing the gas engines in our Cessna 172's and Baron's with electric alternatives.
When I heard the idea, I was immediately skeptical, which was further reinforced by my roommate who shared the same concerns and even elaborated more on why it would be problematic. I began discussing with my friend who I knew would 100% back the idea of electrical engines, and debated with him for a bit to see why he thinks it is a good idea. Unfortunately his debate lacked any sort of complex thought as it was based around "Well why not try since electric is better than gas?"
I decided, after a bit of contemplating, to come here with the idea and hopefully find a contender that supports electric engines in planes. I am not completely closed to the idea, but I am extremely skeptical for a multitude of reasons. I look forward to debating whoever chooses to take up the Contender slot.
Round 1
Published:
Thank you for accepting the debate, fair contender. I hope we have a good time here!

Where my skepticism initially amounted was the efficiency of said electric engines. It's hard to put into words so please bare with me.

My initial thoughts were: Cars already struggle enough with electric engines. They don't get as far as gas powered cars, and charging typically takes longer than fueling, not to mention they have to find specific gas stations that accommodate electric vehicles. One of the practices this school does for its pilot training is "Cross Country" flights. Not only would it be difficult to find an airport that accommodates the planes electric engine, but one that is close enough that the plane can make it to on a single charge. Chances are due to reduced speed, plus a reduced engine performance, it would take more for it to get into the air reducing the time it has to get from point A to point B.

Another efficiency defect would be the charging of the plane itself. We have flight blocks that end at (for example) 3:20 but another that starts at 3:30. That kind of schedule is consistent throughout the day, not to mention IFR rated solo pilots taking out planes later than when VFR rated pilots are scheduled. Multiple students are in each flight block, and it made me concerned that there wouldn't be a way to keep all the planes moving as they wouldn't charge fast enough. An electric car can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 12 hours to charge, I can only imagine how long it would take to safely and efficiently charge an engine for a Cessna 172. Flight blocks would be more spread out, reducing how many students are trained in a day, slowing down the progress off getting a private pilots rating by the end of the semester.

Moving on to the safety concerns, an electric engine would use something like a Lithium Battery. Lithium is extremely flammable and explosive, in the event of a crash landing, the outcome could be x10 more dangerous than an emergency landing with fuel. Certain emergency procedures prevent fuel from being in the engine, as well as reduce the chance for any gas or electrical fires on impact. Lithium batteries wouldn't have that kind of guarantee. Another safety protocol our engines have is the fact that they run on Magnetos. Magnetos are magnets spinning in copper coils generating their own source of electricity. In the event of an electrical failure in the aircraft, the engine will continue running as the magnetos do not rely on the planes battery. An electric engine would be tethered with the electrical system to where it would fail with the rest of the electrical equipment, making an avoidable emergency almost inevitable. 

Now onto cost. The cost of charging an electrical engine depends on the capacity of the engine. I am unsure of what kind of capacity an electrical aircraft engine would hold, so I cannot really determine that at this time. The school has $106/hr fee for flying the planes to accommodate payments for your instructor, maintenance,, and fuel. Looking at our airports cost I cannot determine if the fuel is 4.80 per gallon self service, or 4.80 grand total. I will look into it when I am with my CFI next. My hypothesis on the price is that it will increase not solely based on the charging time, but on the cost of replacing batteries as well as at a certain point a lithium battery would need to be replaced to maximize performance and safety. The school may front most of the cost, but I imagine they would place some of it on the student as well since they are flying the aircraft. This could be incorrect, and I am sorry if that is bad debating but I really couldn't find much information. I'll provide a link of people explaining why car batteries last so long, but the story could be different for a plane. I will look into it for the next round.(https://www.quora.com/How-long-does-the-battery-last-in-an-electric-car)

More on the cost, the school would have to pay a hefty price to: Implement charging stations, buy the new aircraft engines and their batteries, and maintenance on the planes to remeasure their center of gravity due to the lack of fuel and addition of batteries(wherever they may be placed). That in turn could reflect upon the fees of flying the plane as the school tries to recover from the massive hit that would impose.

I really do hope the students suggesting this have some ideas in mind on how to make this happen, but right now it seems like they think it is just pop one engine out and put another one in and call it good. 

I hope this was a good debate post, and I look forward to your response Contender. 

Published:
Thanks, DroneYoinker for the original debate topic.

PRO hasn't offered a specific resolution but explains that his flight school is considering the purchase of some electric aircraft for their training program.  PRO is skeptical for technological reasons and prefers to stick with legacy internal combustion engines.

PRO: Gas engines for flight school vs. CON: electric engines for flight school

DEFINITIONS:

PRO hasn't specified what engines are under consideration but since PRO did say that his flight school's  legacy aircraft include the venerable Cessna 172's I am modeling my arguments on the Lycoming O-360 used in the ubiquitous 172R's.

Because Bye Energy worked with Cessna in 2010 to develop a proof-of-concept electrically powered Cessna 172 and turned that prototype into its present commercially available Bye Aerospace Sun Flyer 4, I will use that plane as a comparable electric option.

  • Crew: one
  • Capacity: three passengers
  • Wingspan: 38 ft (12 m)
  • Wing area: 120 sq ft (11 m2)
  • Empty weight: 1,900 lb (862 kg)
  • Gross weight: 2,700 lb (1,225 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1 × electric motor , 141 hp (105 kW)
  • Propellers: 2-bladed composite
BURDEN of PROOF

Wikipedia suggests:

"When two parties are in a discussion and one makes a claim that the other disputes, the one who makes the claim typically has a burden of proof to justify or substantiate that claim especially when it challenges a perceived status quo. 

As claimant, CON suggests that PRO has the superior burden of proof here.

PRO must show that gas plane engines are preferable to electric plane engines as the option for future flight school plane purchases.
CON must refute PRO's case and defend electric engines as a preferable option for future purchases.

ARGUMENT: Flight schools should be teaching pilots how to fly the planes of the future, not the past.  We are on the cusp of a major shift from internal combustion engines to to electric engines and flight schools that teach pilots how to fly the new technology will be providing their students an important long-term advantage over flight schools that prioritize short term considerations like range and cost.

VOTERS will note that PRO focused mostly on the deficits of the electric engine rather than extolling the virtues of gas engines because the future of the internal combustion engine is rapidly imploding.

POINT#1: Fossil Fuels are fading fast

  • Some dozen countries and 20 major cities have proposed bans on vehicles using fossil fuels.  France and England, for example, have banned gasoline road vehicles after 2040.  Los Angeles plan to ban all fossil fuel based vehicles by 2025.  CON doubts that all of these ambitious goals will be met sharply- China and India announced draconian bans in 2018 and had to slow their roll after freaking out every automaker and oil company in the world simultaneously.  Nevertheless, the writing is on the wall.  Although most of these bans do not include planes, non-automotive restrictions on internal combustion engines are not just predictable- bans on gas engines are inevitable.  The market for fossil fueled machines is in rapid decline for at least 3 major reasons:
    • Global Warming- The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the largest scientific effort in human history) has warned that global greenhouse gas emission must be slashed by 45% by 2030 to prevent the catastrophic effects of a greater than 2 degree Celsius average global temperature increase.
    • Oil supplies are rapidly running out.  Most experts agree that oil's tipping is past us and that prices will only continue to rise as supplies diminish.  A fairly optimistic 2019 report from BP estimated that oil will run out  in 50 years.
    • As supplies decline price will likely increase while hording and increased conflict over limited supply will decrease reliable access.
POINT #2:  Electric Engines are about to become cheaper than Gas and then keep getting cheaper.

  • The Union of Concern Scientists estimates:
"The price of lithium-ion batteries has fallen steeply as their production scale has increased and manufacturers have developed more cost-effective methods.
When the first mass-market EVs were introduced in 2010, their battery packs cost an estimated $1,000 per kilowatt-hour (kWh). Today, Tesla's Model 3 battery pack costs $190 per kWh, and General Motors’ 2017 Chevrolet Bolt battery pack is estimated to cost about $205 per kWh. That's a drop of more than 70% in the price per kWh in 6 years!

EVs are forecast to cost the same or less than a comparable gasoline-powered vehicle when the price of battery packs falls to between $125 and $150 per kWh. Analysts have forecast that this price parity can be achieved as soon as 2020, while other studies have forecast the price of a lithium-ion battery pack to drop to as little as $73 / kWh by 2030. "
  • the fuel for an electric vehicle with an energy efficiency of 3 miles/kWh costs about 3.3 cents/mile when electricity costs the National average of 10 cents/kWh while the fuel for a gasoline vehicle with an energy efficiency of 22 miles/gallon costs about 15.9 cents/mile when gas costs $3.50/gallon.  PRO should correct me if I'm wrong but I'm reading the current price of 100LL avgas at $4-$4.50/gallon.
  • That is fuel costs for electric plane are one-fifth, one-sixth the cost of gas and dropping while the cost of gas will rise.
POINT #3:  Likewise, the range of lithium batteries is better than PRO characterizes- and improving rapidly.  As usual, we are seeing improvements in the automobile market first. 

POINT #4: Lithium-Ion battery life has also significantly improved.

  • A Tesla Model S/X battery deprecation of roughly 1%/18750 miles seems pretty comparable to internal combustion deprecation.
POINT #5:  Electric engines are already proving farm more reliable.

 "the “marginal cost” of owning an EV was essentially zero because maintenance costs were so low, noting that while ICE cars had more than 2,000 moving parts, EVs had about 20, making for few breakdowns."
POINT #6:  Most aviation gas still contain some lead which disperses into the air above human populations. 

"Tetraethyllead is highly toxic, with as little as 6-15mL being enough to induce severe lead poisoning.[61] The hazards of TEL's lead content are heightened due to the compound's volatility and high lipophilicity, enabling it to easily cross the blood-brain barrier and accumulate in the limbic system, frontal cortex, and hippocampus, making chelation therapy ineffective."

Concerns over the toxicity of lead eventually led to the ban on TEL in automobile gasoline in many countries. Some neurologists have speculated that the lead phaseout may have caused average IQ levels to rise by several points in the US (by reducing cumulative brain damage throughout the population, especially in the young). For the entire US population, during and after the TEL phaseout, the mean blood lead level dropped from 16 μg/dL in 1976 to only 3 μg/dL in 1991.
POINT #7:  Electric engines are much, much quieter than internal combustion. 

  • Traditional in-cabin engine noise is virtually eliminated.
  • Flyingmag.com reports:
"The National Park Service conducted a series of tests last week to determine the amount of noise produced by electric-powered aircraft and compared them to the noise levels produced by conventional aircraft. Aero Electric Aircraft Corporation's Sun Flyer overflew the Centennial Airport  just south of Denver while representatives from the National Park Service gathered sound data. Erik Lindbergh from Powering Imagination and a representative from Colorado State University also recorded the event.
If the results of the test are indicative of the amount of noise electric aircraft will produce once they hit the market, they have the potential to eliminate much of the complaints from park visitors who are bothered by overflying airplanes as well as annoyed airport neighbors who want to eliminate airports. "The difference in noise level was on the order of 30 dB, so the AEAC aircraft radiates roughly 1/1000th the noise of the conventional aircraft," said Kurt Fristrup, branch chief of science and engineering at the National Park Service."
I'll refute PRO's arguments in R2 and may add more to CON but these few should demonstrate that electric engines are the future of aviation, not gas.  I look forward to PRO's R2 reply.


Round 2
Published:
PRO hasn't specified what engines are under consideration

Engine was not specified because the school wants the students to design an engine themselves. Forgot to mention that, very sorry.

VOTERS will note that PRO focused mostly on the deficits of the electric engine rather than extolling the virtues of gas engines because the future of the internal combustion engine is rapidly imploding

You're right. There was a certain tone of bias in my initial response because I was more focused on pointing out the shortcomings in the electric engines, rather than equally focusing on both of their advantages and disadvantages. I do apologize and will work to improve on that.

POINT#1: Fossil Fuels are fading fast

POINT #2:
  
Electric Engines are about to become cheaper than Gas and then keep getting cheaper.

All things considered these are very good points that I failed to consider. It is much easier to design electricity to work better whereas gasoline has about met its limitations. If microeconomics has taught me anything, much like how CON mentioned, when oil and fossil fuels begin to dwindle in supply, the price will begin to increase as the competition for the remaining supply will grow fierce. These were both very good points, and it has made me more aware of the situation at hand.

 PRO should correct me if I'm wrong but I'm reading the current price of 100LL avgas at $4-$4.50/gallon.

You are correct. My school specifically sells avgas at about $4.47 per gallon. 



After reading everything CON has stated, I am beginning to understand the future advantages electric engines will hold for aircraft. However, my skepticism for change remains due to the very fact that aviation has not entirely recognized this.

Through some searching I have been unable to find any results on multiple airports, private or public, accommodating electric aircraft. The remaining skepticism lies on the efficiency of training through electric aircraft, as the range may not be as limited as I previously suggested, but where would we go for cross country flights if some of the airports we head to do not accommodate our new aircraft? 

I have researched on some of our local airports, and currently none of them have charging stations for electric aircraft. The only article I could find on a public airport accommodating electric aircraft is LA Counties Compton/Woodley regional airport(https://transportup.com/headlines-breaking-news/la-county-airport-adds-an-electric-aircraft-charging-stations/).

As for the rest of CONs points, he focuses on the performance of electric engines, but doesn't touch up on any of the safety features they have. Not to draw away from the points he made which were really good. I know this is bad debating to just relent to the points CON is making, but they are making really good points that I failed to consider. The more I read what they have explained, the more I can understand the advantages of switching to electric engines. My first mistake was focusing too much on the present, and not looking towards the future. 

Anyway, another concern I still hold for electric engines is their safety procedures. For example:

If our aircrafts engine is to catch on fire, we can stop the fire either by revving up the RPM and blowing it through the engine, or shutting off the fuel supply going to the engine. In an electric aircraft, it's a different kind of fire, and all you have as an option to stop it is revving the engine to attempt to blow it out? I am not entirely sure if that would work. Turning it off may be an option, but the fire has already started. Of course every aircraft is equipped with a fire extinguisher so that is a final attempt at stopping the fire. 

If our electrical systems fail, our gas engines can continue to run as the magnetos generating the energy are disconnected from the main electrical system. They produce their own electricity, and will keep the aircraft flying. An electric engine doesn't have that kind of failsafe. I will do some looking around to see if I can find emergency checklists or procedures for electric aircraft. 

Summary: I am not really concerned if I lose or not. I am not entirely shut off to the idea of electric engines. However my fear is based on the fact that the students want to risk training efficiency to inspire change. Thank you CON for not only taking the debate, but opening my eyes.



Published:
Thanks, DroneYoinker for the rapid reply.

PRO: Gas engines for flight school vs. CON: electric engines for flight school

DEFINITIONS:

For R2, PRO has clarified that his flight school's choice is not about plane purchases but rather what engine to design- an impressive task.  Nevertheless, CON considers his R1 focus on the future prospects of gas engines vs electric engines to be applicable and relevant in the new context. 

BURDEN of PROOF

PRO has not objected to CON's characterization of relative burdens of proof, which CON views now as resolved.

Let's recall CON's main argument:

ARGUMENT: Flight schools should be teaching pilots how to fly the planes of the future, not the past.  We are on the cusp of a major shift from internal combustion engines to to electric engines and flight schools that teach pilots how to fly the new technology will be providing their students an important long-term advantage over flight schools that prioritize short term considerations like range and cost.


RESPONSE to PRO's R1:

[Electric cars] don't get as far as gas powered cars.  True, but CON's argument is that the technology is changing fast & flight schools should be anticipating future capacities.

Perhaps it is presumptuous to expect that plane range improvements will follow Tesla's curve but much of that come increase from battery density, which is transferable to plane tech and has been improving at a rate of 5-8% per annum for two decades now.

[Electric plane] charging typically takes longer than fueling.  That's a hard fact to confirm online so we'll take your word for it.  I see a 2018 Pipstrel Skycharge station that claims to be recharge up to 4 batteries in 15 to 20 mins.  Avgas suppliers recommend waiting at least 15 minutes between filling and sumping fuel tanks so I'm wondering if refuel speeds aren't catching up.

Difficult to find an airport that accommodates the planes electric engine, but one that is close enough that the plane can make it to on a single charge.  Again, that does seem to be an obstacle in the present.  The West Coast seems to have a reasonable density of recharge stations but PRO is correct: cross-country is tricky.  CON falls back on pointing out that electric cars faced the same deficits only 8 or 9 years ago but the necessary infrastructure is coming up fast.

  • 2011- 3,394 US Public EV charging stations
  • 2015- 30,945 US Public EV charging stations
  • 2018- 61,067 US Public EV charging stations
If electric airplanes follow the path of electric cars, charging station availability  should become a rapidly decreasing problem over the next 10-15 years.

In the event of a crash landing, the outcome could be x10 more dangerous than an emergency landing with fuel.  CON is not able to verify PRO's claim of 10 times more dangerous but it is true a punctured lithium-ion battery can be a significant fire hazard, as is jet feul.  A Chalmers University investigation advises:

"car manufacturers crash protect the battery pack so that no short-circuit may occur in its electronics and that no lithium-ion cell can be deformed during pre-defined crash scenarios. In principle, this is done by putting the battery inside a crash protected box. This adds weight, volume and costs. In the future, it is likely that the battery pack instead becomes a part of the crash structure. Battery packs of today can handle some small deformation; this is a matter of design, which today varies depending on cell chemistry, cell design and packaging."
As with gas, we can isolate batteries from crash impacts to a certain degree but as with gas the more severe the crash the greater the fire hazard.

"records obtained by USA TODAY suggest that post-impact fires have killed or contributed to the death of at least 8% of the 11,302 people killed in small-airplane crashes since 1993 and 28% of the 1,117 serious injuries.  The Transportation Safety Board of Canada reached a similar conclusion finding that fire caused 6% of the 3,311 small-airplane deaths in that country from 1976 to 2002."
There are no post-crash fire statistics isolating electric engines for comparison so PRO's 10 times more dangerous claim is neither verifiable or refutable.

As PRO argued in R1, the electric engines 20 moving part compared to an internal combustion engine's 2,000 should translate far greater engine reliability but neither PRO or CON can yet offer real world statistics to prove this.

"the “marginal cost” of owning an EV was essentially zero because maintenance costs were so low, noting that while ICE cars had more than 2,000 moving parts, EVs had about 20, making for few breakdowns."

The cost of charging an electrical engine depends on the capacity of the engine.  In R1, CON showed that recharge costs are significantly cheaper than refueling.

Total costs are not yet proven.  PRO is correct that any flight school will likely have to make some significant investments in infrastructure like recharging stations, new training costs, new parts and suppliers, etc. but CON is convinced that such an investment is an important and worthwhile part of the cost of teaching the next generation of pilots and mechanics.

Here's one engineer's thoughtful price comparison concluding that a $34,000 Nissan Leaf ends up being slightly cheaper than a gas powered $18,000 Hyundai Elantra.   Although such a breakdown may not yet be analogous to the relative costs of electric vs ICE, CON suggests that an analogous tipping point is inevitable as gas prices increase and EV tech proliferates, probably sooner rather than later.

As one top ten Aeronautics school points out:

"Although, for the most part, electric flight is still in the experimental stage, it holds promise because of its capacity to reduce emissions. It’s likely to offer other benefits, too. Aircraft that can operate with little or no fuel generate less noise. Since electrically-powered engines are more efficient than the combustion variety, aircraft equipped with them can fly at higher altitudes and require less energy, which will likely translate to lower ticket prices for passengers. At its current pace of development, though, hybrid technology probably won’t be available for commercial flight until 2030.  What Does the Electric Aircraft Mean for Aviation Schools? As electric aircraft become more commonplace, the skills of an aviation technician will have to include familiarity with hybrid aircraft mechanics. An aviation school can provide the necessary training. An airplane mechanic school can even equip students with the skills to assist in improving upon existing technologies.  Electric aircraft will no doubt usher in a new era for the aviation Industry."
Spartan College claims to "train over 8 percent of all newly certified A&P mechanics entering the workforce" and has purchased at least 25 Electric planes for their program.

I'll address PRO's R2 in CON's R3.  I look forward to PRO's replies in R3.


Round 3
Published:
CON's argument is that the technology is changing fast & flight schools should be anticipating future capacities.

You make a good point with this however, as you have already stated, it is presumptuous to assume planes can advance at the same rate as ground vehicles. Getting something the size of a Cessna 172 or Piper Cherokee into the sky is one thing, but creating batteries and electric engines that can meet the capacity and performance of a plane relative to an Airbus A320 or Boeing 737 is a hard thing to achieve. It is very possible, but technology will have to take a step back as electric engines cannot create the combustion jet turbines need to operate.

That's a hard fact to confirm online so we'll take your word for it.  I see a 2018 Pipstrel Skycharge station that claims to be recharge up to 4 batteries in 15 to 20 mins.  Avgas suppliers recommend waiting at least 15 minutes between filling and sumping fuel tanks so I'm wondering if refuel speeds aren't catching up.

I brought this up with my instructor and he mentioned an aircraft that took about 8 hours for a full charge. However, applying your argument to it, charge time can reduce. I also cannot find an article to prove this so it would be incorrect to use it while being incapable of backing it up. However for fueling, our school typically fills it up right after a flight, or after a couple of consecutive flights. Sumping is usually done instantaneously because by the time we get to the aircraft it has been about 20-30 minutes after landing from it's previous flight.

Again, that does seem to be an obstacle in the present.  The West Coast seems to have a reasonable density of recharge stations but PRO is correct: cross-country is tricky.  CON falls back on pointing out that electric cars faced the same deficits only 8 or 9 years ago but the necessary infrastructure is coming up fast.

While that is true that it can get better over time, I fall back on the previous statement of: Electric planes will more likely progress at a slower rate than cars, so the density of electric charging stations may lack until electric airplanes are ready to dominate the industry.

CON is not able to verify PRO's claim of 10 times more dangerous but it is true a punctured lithium-ion battery can be a significant fire hazard, as is jet feul.

I would like to reform the statement as x10 more dangerous seems rather excessive. It would be rather hard to measure the level of danger posed without prime examples of an electric airplane have a tragic accident.

As with gas, we can isolate batteries from crash impacts to a certain degree but as with gas the more severe the crash the greater the fire hazard.

This is true and there is not a lot of ways to minimize fire hazards on impact as plane crash impacts very. Even the black box casing, in some cases, has been so badly damaged because of the force of the impact(in referral to commercial airline crashes).

As PRO argued in R1, the electric engines 20 moving part compared to an internal combustion engine's 2,000 should translate far greater engine reliability but neither PRO or CON can yet offer real world statistics to prove this.

A combustible engines performance is more consistent than an electric engines. As the battery degrades over time, the performance of the engine will slowly reduce. The question would be: How often are the batteries replaced to maximize performance and safety while minimizing cost?

Another issue is that battery life and performance can be effected by temperatures. For example, if a phone gets too hot or cold, the battery tends to malfunction and cause it to die well before the battery is actually drained. As altitude increases, temperature decreases. Unless the wing is fit with efficient, safe heating methods, the batteries in the aircraft will begin to be adversely affected by the lower temperature. Same can be said when the aircraft is operating in hotter environments at lower altitudes.


ARGUMENT: Flight schools should be teaching pilots how to fly the planes of the future, not the past.  We are on the cusp of a major shift from internal combustion engines to to electric engines and flight schools that teach pilots how to fly the new technology will be providing their students an important long-term advantage over flight schools that prioritize short term considerations like range and cost.
 
I hope you don't mind this being the finisher of my response. When I saw how you closed your response, I figured I'd just use your initial argument as the closing statement was in referral to schools integrating electric aircraft into the curriculum.

The reason why schools love the Cessna's, such as the 172 Steam Gauges or Garmin G-1000's is due to the fact that they are some of the most cost efficient yet training effective airplanes on the market. You also learn a decent chunk of information while flying a Cessna that builds a solid foundation for when you transition to a bigger job. The reason why electric aircraft aren't prioritized yet is due to them proving their cost efficiency, but not quite proving their training efficiency.

Thank you for your enlightening information and the debate overall, CON. This has been a beneficial experience for me.


Published:
Thanks, DroneYoinker for the rapid reply.

PRO: Gas engines for flight school vs. CON: electric engines for flight school

Let's recall CON's main argument:

ARGUMENT: Flight schools should be teaching pilots how to fly the planes of the future, not the past.  We are on the cusp of a major shift from internal combustion engines to to electric engines and flight schools that teach pilots how to fly the new technology will be providing their students an important long-term advantage over flight schools that prioritize short term considerations like range and cost.

Engine was not specified because the school wants the students to design an engine themselves. Forgot to mention that, very sorry.

I suppose that shifts the goalposts somewhat.  For example, we can see that the cost of a Sun Flyer 2 is $350,000 and a comparable new Cessna 172S costs $398,000but whether building an electric plane is cheaper to a similar degree is difficult to ascertain-  there are many hypotheticals.

PRO advises "It is much easier to design electricity to work better whereas gasoline has about met its limitations."   PRO and CON seem to be  in agreement about the eventual demise of gas and the eventual rise of electric but PRO is skeptical about the steepness of the rise of electric as a graphed curve. 

After reading everything CON has stated, I am beginning to understand the future advantages electric engines will hold for aircraft. However, my skepticism for change remains due to the very fact that aviation has not entirely recognized this.


As a flight school student deciding which engine type to build, I'd argue you are in the precise position from which most tech change and innovation flows.  I can't think of a better group to transform the US infrastructure into a cleaner, cheaper, more efficient fleet of electric planes than the folks who are already flying electric drones en masse and are now going to school ready  to ramp up the scale and capacity of that technology.

The only article I could find on a public airport accommodating electric aircraft is LA Counties Compton/Woodley regional airport

I agreed last round that availability is insufficient at present.  My local airport - Centennial Airport in Colorado has recharging but Denver seems to be a leader in building and supplying electric planes.  Washington State has 8 small airports with chargers but they are also ahead of the curve.

 In an electric aircraft, it's a different kind of fire, and all you have as an option to stop it is revving the engine to attempt to blow it out?

Let's agree that an in-air battery fire is harder to extinguish than other kinds of in-flight fires, except actual fuel tank explosions.  We don't have reliable statistics yet but theoretically in-flight fires in electric engines should be much rarer than in-flight fires in internal combustion engines, given the lack of internal combustion.



Getting something the size of a Cessna 172 or Piper Cherokee into the sky is one thing, but creating batteries and electric engines that can meet the capacity and performance of a plane relative to an Airbus A320 or Boeing 737 is a hard thing to achieve. It is very possible, but technology will have to take a step back as electric engines cannot create the combustion jet turbines need to operate

PRO and CON agree that electric replacements for big commercial airliners is a long way off- perhaps three or four decades. CON expects that the exigencies of climate change will force humanity to modify our present reliance on big dirty jetliners for long-distance travel.  We will certainly want to reserve our dwindling fuel supplies for military uses until alternate power sources can match gasoline's propulsive capacity.  That means sooner rather than later, we will want to replace most modern jetliners with something more efficient, even if it is slower.  We will start with replacing short and mid range flights with newer, cleaner techs- automated vehicles, electric commuter planes, trains, boats- perhaps even something like Elon Musk's hyperloop concept.

I would like to reform the statement as x10 more dangerous seems rather excessive. It would be rather hard to measure the level of danger posed without prime examples of an electric airplane have a tragic accident.

Agreed. 

The question would be: How often are the batteries replaced to maximize performance and safety while minimizing cost?

Agreed that's a big question that's hard to answer at this stage.

battery life and performance can be effected by temperatures

Agreed.  Insulating batteries from the temperature extremes of flight will be an essential part of development.

I am not entirely shut off to the idea of electric engines. However my fear is based on the fact that the students want to risk training efficiency to inspire change.
The reason why schools love the Cessna's, such as the 172 Steam Gauges or Garmin G-1000's is due to the fact that they are some of the most cost efficient yet training effective airplanes on the market. You also learn a decent chunk of information while flying a Cessna that builds a solid foundation for when you transition to a bigger job. The reason why electric aircraft aren't prioritized yet is due to them proving their cost efficiency, but not quite proving their training efficiency.

George Bye of Bye Aeronautics has a good response to that very concern:

“Thirty percent of our airline pilots are retiring in the next three years, but 80 percent of our student pilots stop their training,” Bye said. “They drop out and the No. 1 reason is cost.”

And the Cessna 172 training fleet is aging, too. The fleet’s average age is 50 years old, Bye said. “We are desperately in need of a fresh start.”

“[The Sun Flyer 2] is $23 per flight hour, including the fuel and all the operating costs, [The Cessna 172] is $110 per flight hour. ”

Bye believes the difference in expense could be the difference between keeping the pilot pipeline full and planes sitting idle in hangars because there aren’t enough people to fly them.
“Thirty percent of our airline pilots are retiring in the next three years, but 80 percent of our student pilots stop their training,” Bye said. “They drop out and the No. 1 reason is cost.”
If training efficiency is the concern, electric engines are more efficient today and likely to see much improved efficiency in the future.

I am not really concerned if I lose or not.



I hope you don't mind this being the finisher of my response. When I saw how you closed your response, I figured I'd just use your initial argument as the closing statement was in referral to schools integrating electric aircraft into the curriculum.

CON will admit to a certain degree of concern with winning this debate.  I can't tell whether PRO is conceding or merely requesting that we extend arguments but I think we agree that our relative  positions are fairly well covered.  If PRO wishes to merely extend arguments for the last two rounds, CON will agree to follow suit although I'd like to add a short summation in R5.



Round 4
Published:
CON will admit to a certain degree of concern with winning this debate.  I can't tell whether PRO is conceding or merely requesting that we extend arguments but I think we agree that our relative  positions are fairly well covered.  If PRO wishes to merely extend arguments for the last two rounds, CON will agree to follow suit although I'd like to add a short summation in R5.

I don't really know what to call it, but I am not very concerned with the outcome as I believe what you have provided as counter arguments are very informative. The answer seems rather unclear as although Electric Engines are not as developed, they still have a future that will eventually trump the efficiency of Gas Combustion engines. 

I am not entirely sure how to continue as I feel your response has, in a way, wrapped up the debate. I dropped 5 rounds as a safety net to give us time to really construct our thoughts and have a good conversation. We either agree, or we just know no definitive answer can come as there is just not enough substantial evidence to prove anything. 

Where we go from here, I am open to suggestions. Thank you so much for this, CON, this has been a truly wonderful experience.
Published:
Thanks, DroneYoinker

OK, so let's extend arguments in R4.  We can summarize and restate our views in R5.
Round 5
Published:
Hopefully I am doing what you suggested in your R4 response, deepest apologies if I interpreted it incorrectly

To restate and summarize my views: 

I am not entirely turned away from the idea of electric engines. However, given their current standing in evolution, I am unsure how much our school would gain from switching half if not our whole fleet of planes with electric engines. I hypothesize that the school would have to spend a decent amount to reform our air program, what with buying new planes and charging stations, and I assume that some of that cost would affect the tuition of future and returning students. 

CON has provided informative posts that give me hope for the rise of electric planes, but at the moment I am still rather reserved about our school specifically doing it, and will wait until they have a solid plan to confirm my thoughts. 

I thank CON for the debate, and look forward to his R5 response, as well as the voting process. 
Published:
Thanks, DroneYoinker for a very laid back debate.

PRO: Gas engines for flight school vs. CON: electric engines for flight school

ARGUMENT: Flight schools should be teaching pilots how to fly the planes of the future, not the past.  We are on the cusp of a major shift from internal combustion engines to to electric engines and flight schools that teach pilots how to fly the new technology will be providing their students an important long-term advantage over flight schools that prioritize short term considerations like range and cost.

There's nothing wrong with a little skepticism about new technology, particularly when the rate of change is uncertain.  But while the rate of change uncertain the direction of change is not.

We can be confident that electric engines are commercial flight's future.  We know for certain that the age of gas engines will soon be past.
  • Fossil feuls are fading fast
  • Electric Engines are already comparably priced and will definitely continue to get cheaper
  • The popularity and adaptability of lithium ion batteries in the car industry ensures continued improvement in density and safety to achieve benchmarks in flight faster.
    • I might take this opportunity to note that the inventors of the lithium-ion battery won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry on Wednesday..
“This battery has had a dramatic impact on our society,” Olof Ramström, a chemist at the University of Massachusetts Lowell and member of the 2019 Nobel Committee for chemistry, said October 9 during the announcement of the prize by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm. “It’s clear that the discoveries of our three laureates really made this possible. It’s really been to the very best benefit of humankind.” 
"These lightweight, rechargeable batteries power everything from portable electronics to electric cars and bicycles, and provide a way to store energy from renewable but transient energy sources, like sunlight and wind. "
  • The battery life of lithium-ion has improved to rough parity with a gas engine and is likely to increase
  • Electric engines are far more reliable than the complex internal combustion engine and are likely to improve.
  • Electric engines are clean and quiet- less toxic for pilots, passengers, and for civilians on the ground.
Given these many and manifest advantages I think any flight school would be remiss to not include electric engines as an important part of a forward-facing curriculum and this debater would encourage PRO to request electric tech training from his professors.

If VOTERS feel the same, then please reward CON with points for argument.  CON claims no advantage in sources, grammar, or conduct- PRO & I were just having a little discussion here which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Thanks again to DroneYoinker for the interesting topic and thanks to VOTERS for their kind consideration.

Added:
--> @Ragnar
My mistake! I was multitasking at the time, probably did not notice it. Like you said, probably when I stopped paying attention
Instigator
#21
Added:
--> @DroneYoinker
The video link you gave has the targeted timestamp of nine-minutes six-seconds (probably when you stopped watching it), which is after all the relevant content. It's just something to be careful of in future.
#20
Added:
--> @Ragnar
I am not sure what you mean?
Instigator
#19
Added:
--> @DroneYoinker
The video has a targeted timestamp for an advertisement for algebra courses at the end. In case you're on right now, you've still got a few minutes to edit the post.
#18
Added:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VNvzZfsC13o&t=546s
Disclaimer: This is not to sway the vote.
I just think it's a neat video to watch for information.
Instigator
#17
Added:
--> @DroneYoinker
What I would do:
The type of discussion this is, plus my education, causes me to feel the need to offer an opinion outside of my vote...
DroneYoinker, research if other flight schools have yet started teaching electric engines. If not, it might prove to be a marketable thing for your school (hell, even one sitting on the ground for study but not actually being used in a plane...). However, until the technology does improve, I would stick with fuel as your primary one, as right now when pilots are being hired, they are going to be expected to know how to handle the current dominant technology. Plus by the sound of the safety features, it will end up being a slightly different plane for the electric engine, not merely a different engine swapped in place.
It is an idea the school should revisit periodically, as the tipping point will be crossed sooner or later (likely not as soon as we hope, but it seems like an eventuality).
#16
Added:
--> @oromagi, @DroneYoinker
---RFD (1 of 2)---
Interpreting the resolution:
Very open ended, and it even changed in the middle of the debate...
Gist:
It was a really good discussion more than a debate, but as a debate it was won by con for long term considerations and pollution.
1. Fossil Fuels are fading
A lot of fairly good information on personal vehicles and related matters, but then BP oil setting a 53 year estimate was a powerful appeal to authority, about like if Chuck Norris corrected technique on roundhouse kicks.
Dropped by pro.
2. Cost per distance
Pro asserts that electric are most costly.
Con counters that costs have almost equalized (at least for cars), and are projected to begin shifting in favor of electric. Very nice use of charts from a .gov source.
Conceded by pro.
3. Range
Pro suggests range limitations, in part tied to a lack of current airport facilities.
Con uses the average rate of improvement, to suggest in ten years batteries will be longer ranged than conventional fuel.
Pro brings things back to today with the lack of current airport facilities, highlighted by it being a newsworthy item when an airport adds a charging station for smaller aircrafts.
Con uses Tesla (and admits planes might not improve so fast), with a link explaining the improvement is basically like Moore’s Law but in slow motion (this does not assure no upper limit, but it’s a nice piece of evidence); and how quickly the auto industry installed the facilities to meet the demand for them.
#15
Added:
4. Life
Battery life is non-ideal at this point.
Con uses Tesla to defend that the overall depreciation is normal.
5. Reliability
Less moving parts draws my mind to solid state hard drives... Likely a poor comparison, but intuitively fewer moving parts for the same result is a good thing.
6. Air pollution
The lead into the air was a powerful point, especially how it was banned in automobiles.
7. Noise pollution
Con used a source to show it is decreased to only a 1/1000th.
8. Safety
(pro introduced this first, but following the numbered points is a bit easier)
Batteries are apparently massively more dangerous in crashes. If an engine catches fire, we have good procedures for current engines, which would not work for electric. The separate electrical system current engines run on, serves as a nice failsafe in case the computers or whatever else the main electrical system of the plane is on fails.
Con counters that fuel is estimated to be responsible for 8% of the crash deaths already, and that the 10x figure is an unwarranted assertion.
9. Versatility
Pro reminds us that the technology is not there for airbus or other massive planes to use electric engines... at least not yet.
---
Arguments:
See above review of key points. Pro ended up dropping a lot of argument lines, which is fine in a discussion, but hurts him in grading this as a debate.
Sources:
By con’s request, I am leaving these tied. They did however favor him by a good margin (early into the debate I thought I would end up tying the debate but giving him the source points)
#14
Added:
--> @RationalMadman
That is something else to consider, but I assume on water landing the batteries have a way to stay isolated while electricity is removed from the engine. Such as gas being removed from the engine in a gas combustion.
Instigator
#13
Added:
--> @DroneYoinker
You forgot to mention crashing into an ocean, lake etc, it's a devastatingly big consequence of ever risking electric engines.
#12
Added:
--> @oromagi
Thanks again for the debate/conversation. You've helped me understand a few things on why, in the long run, electric planes will really be key to evolution.
Instigator
#11
Added:
forgot the cite for that Pulitzer prize quote:
https://www.sciencenews.org/article/lithium-ion-battery-chemistry-nobel-prize
Contender
#10
Added:
Glancing through this debate, I am very glad to see it doesn’t boil down to appeals to novelty vs. appeals to tradition.
#9
Added:
--> @DroneYoinker
CON R1 Source List
https://web.archive.org/web/20110511100227/http://textron.vo.llnwd.net/o25/CES/cessna_aircraft_docs/single_engine/skyhawk/skyhawk_s%26d.pdf
http://www.airweb.faa.gov/Regulatory_and_Guidance_Library/rgMakeModel.nsf/0/21e8d0b43d2298188625760e005237eb/$FILE/E-286.pdf
https://www.aopa.org/news-and-media/all-news/2017/july/24/four-seat-sun-flyer-in-the-works
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burden_of_proof_(philosophy)
https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/
https://www.nature.com/articles/481433a
https://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/Energy-Voices/2014/0714/How-long-will-world-s-oil-reserves-last-53-years-says-BP
https://avt.inl.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/fsev/costs.pdf
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tesla_Roadster_(2020)
https://evadoption.com/statistics-of-the-week-comparing-vehicle-ranges-for-gas-bevs-and-phevs/
https://www.edn.com/electronics-blogs/test-cafe/4462251/Do-lithium-ion-batteries-follow-Moore-s-Law-
https://steinbuch.wordpress.com/2015/01/24/tesla-model-s-battery-degradation-data/
https://nbaa.org/wp-content/uploads/events/Sun-Flyer-PP_NBAA-template.pdf
Contender
#8
Added:
Pls ignore the cut & paste remark. AD & I were gossiping about a fellow member which is bad behavior and also not appropriate for a debate comment section. Sorry for that but none of it was directed your way.
Great R1 & I forgot to say welcome to the site. Welcome!
Contender
#7
#2
Criterion Pro Tie Con Points
Winner 1 point
Reason:
There is a lot to unpack in this debate.
The primary arguments from con are mostly related to cost, that gasoline is fading, as electric engines are the future. In the opening round con outlined that range and reliability are improving and not a substantial barrier. These were mostly acknowledged by pro, and I can’t see these being substantially challenged by him - in fact they appeared to be accepted as benefits. As a result, these benefits have to be given.
Noise pollution and air pollution themselves are concerns that are also motivated by electric planes - as is the concept of training people on the future, with ICE’s on their way out. Most of these again, went largely uncontested.
In terms of the negative cases, pro raises issues with recharging time and availability - to which con points out the particulars of lithium battery charging are improving and close to that of gas. I think con does well enough to show that the issues are not to the point of detrimental.
These practicality issues again appear largely motivated by con also.
The safety issues, I felt were pros strongest aspect. The possibility of major fire after crashes were motivated by con; but the difficulty of putting out a fire, is a point I didn’t feel mitigated by con - other to say that 20vs2000 does improve limit the possibility of other types of failure.
The issue with electrical failures mentioned by pro was not addressed at all as far I can see- but also not expanded upon by pro.
I couldn’t find parts of cons argument that addressed battery degradation over time, or temperature performance other to than it would need to be addressed.
Pro could actually have won this on these grounds by arguing that with an unknown safety record, and technological solutions that are currently unspecified is not a desirable scenario for learner pilots; however neither side explains how much prototyping, and timescales to use - as it wasn’t clear where this was a general “shift” or “let’s go with what we have today”, that muddied the water somewhat. Given that safety seems a huge barrier to adopting a new type of plane over efficiency, or it being the way forward, this aspect largely weights itself the point that it raised an inherent doubt in my mind.
However, as this wasn’t really argued to a substantial degree by pro, I can’t award this in pros favour. However imo, while I am leaning towards con, there’s too much of a question mark over the weighting of the safety aspects raised to award it to con either.
As a result, I am awarding this as a tie.
I would have awarded the win to con had he done more to explicitly weight the safety concerns or unknowns here against the immediate benefits; or presented a plan whereby, say, the issues are presented as technical knowns that would be demonstrably next addressed; there was some of this, but it fell short of what I needed to push me over the line.
#1
Criterion Pro Tie Con Points
Winner 1 point
Reason:
See comments:
https://www.debateart.com/debates/1486/comment_links/21212
Gist:
It was a really good discussion more than a debate, but as a debate it was won by con for long term considerations and pollution.