Airport considers electric plane charging

Beta Technologies working to come up with an electric infrastructure plan for aircraft and cars.

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Beta Aircraft and Aviation Technologies is in conversation with Martha's Vineyard Airport to potentially install infrastructure for electric aircraft and ground transportation charging. — Screenshot

Martha’s Vineyard Airport is looking at potentially installing support infrastructure for electric aircraft and ground transportation.

At Thursday’s meeting of the Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission (MVAC), airport director Geoff Freeman said all aspects of sustainable electric technology are being considered so that the airport can remain at the forefront of environmentally conscious innovation.

Freeman said airport officials are in discussion with Sam Hobbs of Beta Aircraft and Aviation Technologies, an aircraft manufacturer and infrastructure company with an expansive network of charging systems spanning the Eastern half of the country. 

Hobbs said the company is in the middle of developing its new Alia aircraft. Comparable to a Cessna Caravan in size and wingspan, the fully electric plane can fly with wings or with lift rotor props, enabling it to take off and land vertically and then transition to long-range flight. 

The Alia is being developed and tested in tandem with a network of electric aircraft charging ports, not just to support Beta’s aircraft, but to fuel the electric plane industry at large, according to Hobbs.

“We are doing everything we can not to be proprietary, and are working with a number of groups to provide the right protocols that support the most aircraft,” Hobbs said.

As the infrastructure exists currently, two refrigerator-size converters that change alternating current from the grid into fast-charging direct current are stationed near the payment and charging kiosks.

The kiosks are located at the edge of an aircraft ramp to allow for easier installation and fewer disruptions to airport operations during construction and maintenance.

As part of the aircraft charging infrastructure, a public element to Beta’s plan for the airport would include fast chargers for ground vehicles.

He noted that the chargers that work for electric planes also work for Teslas, Chevy Volts, and other electric vehicles.

For the aircraft charging, people can book their charging time with an easy-to-use phone app, and can either pay through the app, or at one of the rampside kiosks. 

In looking to the future of electric vehicles and planes, Hobbs said Beta would also look at installing supporting infrastructure to allow for additional charging stations in the future.

According to Hobbs, the airport wouldn’t have to spend time working with the utility company, and Beta would handle all the organizational aspects of connecting the infrastructure to the grid. 

“We need three-phase 1,200-amp service with 480 volts. We set all that up. Beta not only pays for this infrastructure, but we organize the work with the utilities. It’s about trying to make it as low a lift as possible for the airport,” Hobbs said.

Commissioner Kristen Zern wondered if the electric aircraft that Cape Air decides to utilize in its fleet would be compatible with these charging systems. 

Hobbs said Beta hopes to cover whatever Cape Air implements, and the company can work with the airport in the future to decide how to accommodate any specific kind of charging technology.

Commissioner Jack Ensor asked about how solar projects on the Island could work in concert with any electric charging going on at the airport. “How would the tech work behind the meter? If there is power produced here, instead of pulling power through the cables, is that something we could utilize?” Ensor asked.

Although the decision to tie in solar energy to the system would be in the hands of the utility company, Hobbs said, he is excited to hear about the possibility of using green energy.

Commissioner Richard Knabel noted that the parking situation at the airport is already stressed, and wondered where the vehicle charging stations would be located near the terminal.

Hobbs said that would need to be a conversation going forward, as Beta determines what systems will work best for the Vineyard.

In other business, American, Delta, and Elite Airlines have all ended service for the season, leaving Cape Air and JetBlue as only the two operators.

JetBlue will operate through Oct. 18, with approximately four or five flights per day, and will drop down to two or three flights as the end of its operational season nears.

13 COMMENTS

    • There will be many many more.
      Let’s not put in any chargers.
      Discourage this wasteful nonsense.
      I love the sound of internal combustion engines screaming at full horsepower, in the early morning.

      • Like you said. There will be. That’s the future, maybe. I’ve been flying 36 years and I have yet to see one electric plane. The problem is charging time.

        • I am guessing that you didn’t make Oshkosh this year.
          There have been electric trainers on the market for a couple years now.
          They have ~1.8 hour duration.
          They take ~35 minutes to take a 80% charge.
          In two years it will be half that.
          How long does it take you to fuel your plane?
          Can you fuel it in the hangar?
          Does someone have to standby while fueling?
          What is the average duration of your flights?

          The times they are a changing.
          In 36 years there will be no (<1%) active pilots who have not flown electric.
          If you have been flying for 36 years you need your forward visionary checked.

          • You don’t spend tax payer money when there is not one electric plane at our airport. People like Hess just waste tax payers money which is why our country is the highest debtor nation in the world. If electric planes do get popular than install self pay charging stations.

  1. Why not fix the real infrastructure problem they have first. Correct the traffic issue coming and going to this airport and the road system. The time to fix this was years ago and nothing has been done.

  2. There are currently at least 160 major companies (including nasa) that are working on electric planes, and there are many “experimental” aircraft that are being tested in non commercial situations.
    On the local level, Cape Air placed an order for an undisclosed number of electric aircraft in 2019 and COULD start service as early as 2023 .
    https://www.ainonline.com/aviation-news/air-transport/2021-07-22/cape-air-prepares-operate-eviations-alice-electric-commuter

    Of course there are many obstacles in developing any new technology, and given the safety concerns, I personally think 2023 is a bit optimistic.
    But it is inevitable.
    It might be nice if we have a place for them to charge when they get here.
    In the meantime, this proposed charging station can charge electric ground vehicles.

    This link is rather long, (about 43 minutes) but for those with the time and the will to educate themselves about this developing technology , this is a pretty good “read” ;
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kj4PE9uATJA

    I spend a lot of time on Tiah’s Cove road, near the flight path of the airport.
    I for one will not miss the noise on an otherwise quiet Sunday Morning.

      • yeah– and some people think electric ferries don’t exist, and that electric cars in new England get their electricity from coal burning power plants.
        And there is one person who comments often on this forum who really dislikes the idea that a healthy person in their 60’s actually gets on a bicycle…
        Go figure..
        But an electric toothbrush ? That is technologically impossible..

  3. Fossil fuels supply 84 percent of the worlds energy. And there are people by the hundreds of millions who could not survive without those fuels. The elite like solar and wind and all the other inefficient energy sources but couldn’t care less about those left behind whose lives depend on fossil fuels. Meanwhile the super rich fly around and preach to us about climate but do nothing themselves. .

    • Andy– tell us about the inefficiencies of various alt energies.
      In a typical Internal combustion engine only about 20 % of the energy created by the burning of the fuel actually moves the car. The rest is lost as heat and unburned hydrocarbons
      https://rentar.com/efficient-engines-thermodynamics-combustion-efficiency/
      And we couldn’t care less about impoverished people ?
      Yeah, that’s because we’re all socialist who want an economic system that benefits everyone, I guess.
      And why is it always about the “elite” ?
      Seems to me ( according to you) that you are in that economic class, and actually fly quite a bit.. You often mention that you are in some distant city. How was the hiking in France by the way ?

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