The environmental performance group sets out to analyze the climate, air quality and noise footprint of electric aircraft – and informs aircraft design and propulsion technology development to optimize the environmental impacts.
The Climate Challenge
Aviation is a significant contributor to climate change, as it was responsible for 1.5% of global anthropogenic GHG emissions in 2010. According to recent projections, aviation CO2 emissions might more than double by 2050. In addition, aviation activity results in contrails, the white line-shaped clouds that form behind aircraft. They have about the same climate impact as all aviation CO2 emissions, thereby approximately doubling the net climate impact of aviation.
MIT’s Electric Aircraft Initiative studies the climate impacts of different aircraft configurations – from battery-powered aircraft, which do not emit CO2 and form contrails at altitude, to hybrid electric aircraft.
The Air Quality Challenge
The air quality impacts of aviation cause approximately 16,000 early deaths per year. These premature deaths result from fuel combustion in aircraft engines, which degrades air quality through emitting or forming, for example, particulate matter, black carbon or nitrate oxides.
MIT’s Electric Aircraft Initiative studies the air quality impacts of electric aircraft while considering the source of electric power for battery-powered aircraft. Furthermore, emission control devices for use in hybrid electric aircraft are considered.
The Noise Challenge
More than 25 million people are exposed to noise from aircraft, which take-off or land at airports. If one imagines a future in which drones fill the skies over our cities, the importance of silence becomes even more apparent.
MIT’s Electric Aircraft Initiative studies the noise impacts of electric aircraft. Furthermore, it aims to inform further research to achieve silent electric flight.