Elon Musk has new big plans: After out-there projects like SpaceX’s reusable rocket and Hyperloop, the billionaire tech titan wants to turn his attention to electric aeroplanes.
The technology is basically non-existent commercially today, but that could all be about to change. Speaking at a Hyperloop event in Texas, the Tesla and SpaceX entrepreneur was asked what his “next great idea” was.
And it seems that after electric cars, Musk wants to get electric vehicles off the ground (literally):
I have been thinking about the vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) electric jet a bit more. I think I have something that might close. I'm quite tempted to do something about it.
Musk has been mulling the idea over for some time, first musing about the possibility of an electric plane with vertical takeoff six years ago. Now, it seems he’s become more enamoured of the idea.
It’s not quite as crazy as it sounds. Prototypes of electric aircraft, like the French E-Fan pictured above, have existed since the 1970s. There are hybrid jets in action today, including the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, and solar-powered Solar Impulse has been attempting a circumnavigation of the globe.
But a commercially viable all-electric aeroplane has eluded designers until now, mostly hindered by lagging battery technology
Elon Musk’s SpaceX made space exploration history when it managed to send its Falcon 9 rocket into space and back again in December, a breakthrough for reusable rockets.
The tech entrepreneur’s other wacky brainchild, the Hyperloop transport system, seems to be getting closer to its 2020 launch goal, with tests planned during the spring of 2016.
Once Hyperloop becomes a commercial reality, the idea is that people will be able to travel close to the speed of sound, shot forward in air-propelled pods travelling through reduced pressure tubes.