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back to article Elon Musk says he's planning a 'supersonic, electric hover jetplane'

Hecamillionaire space cowboy Elon Musk has revealed new and ambitious plans for the future - among them the idea of a "supersonic electric jet" able to make hovering landings and takeoffs. The one-time PayPal luminary and founder of both upstart rocket biz SpaceX and electrocar darling Tesla Motors is also pondering plans to …

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Love the audacity and vision of this guy. Exciting stuff combined with a good business sense.

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Mushroom

Imagine...

Imagine if he employed some of the same brainiacs that wrote the Paypal API. That'd be an exciting launch to watch...

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Linux

'supersonic, electric hover jetplane' -- Is it just me, or does that sound rather sexy?

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FAIL

Its just you

To me it sounds frankly impossible. There is no way to develop enough power from any battery for more than a few seconds of supersonic flight. As a builder of electric model aeroplanes I am fully familiar with the limitations of that technology. Also if some other power source is used to generate electricity, the question as to why that power source is not directly utilised has to be asked.

In short its just a load of fluff and bollox. It may sound sexy, but it wont work.

But then these days not a day passes without the announcement of some new technology that ticks all the boxes in the dreamlist, but none in the list of things that include economically viable and physically possible.

I myself have patented the idea of a green car that runs on wish fulfilment alone. And we shortly be applying for a billion pound grant to develop it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Its just you

You need to read this book: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physics_of_the_Impossible

Just because you think it's impossible, doesn't mean that someone else can't figure out a way to make it work.

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Linux

I said I thought it sounded sexy, not that it might actually work.

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Re: Its just you

@itzman

That was a seriously funny post. I have visions of itzman rocking up to Mr Musk waving about his 10'' electric R/C plane and explaining why Elon is plain wrong. And plane wrong.

Also, you need to spend less time building said R/C planes and practice hitting the apostrophe button instead.

Here you go: "It's just you" and "...won't work" (I know there's a second "its" error)

And while I'm at it, "dreamlist" and "I myself" aren't really English either.

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Re: Its just you @ itzman

To you and other doubters here, I would wager that the man who founded and runs Spacex, a company that that has made multiple successful spacecraft launches to low earth orbit *might* be better placed than yourselves to decide whether it will or will not work.

Call me crazy but I think he'd have considered the enginnering challenges before going to the press.

Let's wait for more details shall we, hmm?

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Re: Its just you

I'm sure your experience with model planes gives you far more insight into cutting edge technology research than a man who owns two tech research companies and has successfully designed built and launched space rockets.

I know exactly how you feel, too - I had an RC car when I was a kid and now I'm fully qualified to tell Lewis Hamilton how to drive. Sadly, he won't return my phone calls, the fool.

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Re: It is just you

Nonsense. Not only is this idea feasible, but it is very sensible. You're getting hung up on the word electric. It is quite obvious, however, that it really is impossible to have a viable plug-in electric plane. Has it occurred to you to ask why would Elon mention something as stupid as that?

If I had to venture a guess. The plane doesn't store fuel as electricity, but rather as liquid hydrogen. The 'electrical' label is there to prevent it from being shut down by the Hindenburg crowd. Liquid hydrogen is 5 times more energy dense than kerosene, so the plane would be significantly lighter. It can also achieve much higher peak power very easily, allowing for hover and supersonic. Both of those are crucial for economic viability of the craft. Airline companies aren't going to take a gamble on a new technology (especially hydrogen) unless in addition to slight fuel savings, it offers unprecedented capability.

So, how many hydrogen fuel cell model airplanes have you built?

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Re: It is just you

Oh, and as to why a hydrogen fuel cell plane would be called electric - for all intents and purposes it essentially is. The turbines will be electric and hydrogen can be electrolysed wherever there's water and electricity. It's merely used for more efficient (by weight) energy storage.

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Why use liquid hydrogen?

Metal hydrides have much higher storage densities without all the hassles associated with very cold and/or high pressure hydrogen gas.

See http://www.dalefield.com/slspartners/hydrogen_fm.html

Myth 4 – Hydrogen has a higher energy density than gasoline or diesel

Hydrogen has more energy per unit mass than other fuels (61,100 BTUs per pound versus 20,900 BTUs per pound of gasoline). The problem with hydrogen is that it is much less dense (pounds per gallon) than other fuels. A gallon of gasoline has a mass of 6.0 pounds, the same gallon of liquid hydrogen only has a mass of 0.567 pounds or only 9.45% of the mass of gasoline. Therefore one gallon of gasoline yields 125,400 BTUs of energy while a gallon of liquid hydrogen yields only 34,643 BTUs or 27.6% of the energy in a gallon of gasoline. The Space Shuttle uses hydrogen as a fuel, because its mass is low, and the fuel is carried in an external fuel tank that is jettisoned during lift off. Automobiles can not have external fuel tanks that are discarded, and the energy per unit volume is used to determine a fuel’s energy density in automobiles. Compressed gaseous hydrogen is even less dense than liquid hydrogen. At 5,000 psi of pressure gaseous hydrogen only has a density of 0.25 pounds per gallon or one twenty fourth the density of gasoline. Gasoline and diesel are far superior fuels to hydrogen in this regard.

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Re: Why use liquid hydrogen?

Granted, I should've said 'energy density to mass ratio'. We're not talking about automobiles and high-pressure gaseous hydrogen, so I think you've answered your own question as to why you would use hydrogen and even provided the example of space shuttle.

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Re: Its just you @ itzman

This is like saying, because someone is rich and famous (and even if they made their money on that dismal thing, paypal) they know better than someone who might be much cleverer than them. It's ridiculous prejudice.

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Re: Its just you

People who had seen a few milkfloats in their time used to say that electric vehicles could never be fast.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Its just you

They could easily have made milk-floats much faster, but they had glass milk bottles in those days, plus they needed to actually finish the milk round without running flat or actually making butter on the way round ;)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Its just you

"As a builder of electric model aeroplanes I am fully familiar with the limitations of that technology"

I respect that.

"Elon Musk is an engineer and entrepreneur who builds and operates companies to solve environmental, social and economic challenges. He co-founded PayPal and currently drives strategy, development and design at two companies he created, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) and Tesla Motors, and oversees a third company, SolarCity, which he co-founded. He led SpaceX’s efforts to be the first private company to successfully launch and dock a spacecraft with the international space station" (http://elonmusk.com/)

And I also respect that.

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Re: It is just you

Liquid hydrogen does indeed have a higher specific energy than kerosene. However, when you take into account the cryogenic containment system you need, things don't look so rosy. Additionally, liquid hydrogen is about 1/10 the density of kerosene, so you need a lot more volume to store the same energy.

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Or rather

a bit childish. Honestly, I sometimes think adults are no longer in charge in this world, harumph, you kids with your fax machines and hula hoops and cassette tapes, etc etc etc.

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Anonymous Coward

Dude, you need your eyes checked

Monica Bellucci is sexy.

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Anonymous Coward

I can see it now ...

The first test of the VTVL, supersonic electric jet was going so well, till it reached 35ft and pulled the plug out

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I can see it now ...

Come on, that's not realistic, what a terrible thing to say.

I think instead it would run out of battery and nose-dive into the grass just beyond the final runway lights. :P

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Anonymous Coward

Given his hsitory to date....

.....I don't think I'd bet against his actually managing to pull it off.

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oh he'll pull it off alright - but having to land and spend 12 hours recharging every 100 miles will be a pain in the ass

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April 1st...

...seems to have come round very quickly this time...

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Joke

"It is more important to the world that we do a more affordable electric car. Hopefully, we will get to a [new] electric supercar in 4 to 5 years," Musk said.

Super! An "electric supercar" and "more affordable" in the same quotation!

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Anonymous Coward

overarching or overcharging?

or is there any difference?

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Happy

wuh?

Just what the heck is an electric jet?

Does he mean a plasma or ion thruster?

Is he even aware these things actually exist.. but are only used in space because.. well that's the only place they really work..

He should stop squandering his money on silly things like overweight 'sports' cars only capable of hatchback speeds and instead pay me to make a proper sports car.

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Electric jet

Isn't "electric jet" a bit of a contradiction in terms? Call me a nitpicker, but a jet engine to me generally involves burning fuel, and a plane described as a jet is generally powered by the aforementioned fuel-burning jet engines. Still, I like the sound of it, whatever it's called.

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Re: Electric jet

Probably a high speed turbine driven by an electric motor.

Hugely inefficient way to fly a plane, and almost impossible to go supersonic with.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Electric jet

RE: Thunderbirds Episode 1

Sounds like Fireflash.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Electric jet

It might be a variation on the 'microwaved coffee' drive - incredibly efficient, plus you can brake by using a teaspoon

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Electric jet

+1

weight of ..... turbine, & motor & battery(or fuelcell+tank)

Good luck getting enough power-to-weight, and figuring out how to get your turbines to survive supersonic intake

-OK you could try variable inlet spikes....

My advice .. if you must do it, limited liability company, no hyping, and stay away from Moller :P

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Re: Electric jet

> "but a jet engine to me generally involves burning fuel"

Generally yes, but alternatives have been proposed - e.g. a nuclear reactor for project pluto (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Pluto). As a completly wild guess he could be talking about using a similar ramjet design but with a really big electric heater instead of the nuclear pile.

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Re: Electric jet

"but with a really big electric heater "

And the really LARGE amount of electricity ?

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Re: Electric jet

Well yes, whether its a jet or something else this thing isn't going to be running off a couple of AAAs.

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Not just Musk

If you do a bit of research you'll find that Boeing and Airbus have active research projects into electric commercial airliners. Use a conventional turbine running at a constant, efficient, speed to generate electricity to charge batteries. Call on the batteries for peak energy needs, i.e., when taking off.

The supersonic part I'm a bit fuzzy on, but I'm not sure I'd bet against Musk's record.

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Boffin

Re: Not just Musk

Research projects are one thing, but have Boeing and Airbus produced anything aproaching a test-bed system yet? But what do they know, compared to the man that knocked up PayPal overnight?

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Boffin

Re: Not just Musk

It's usually called a "more electric aircraft" and it's electricity for replacing the *hydraulic* systems on board with electric actuation, eliminating *lots* of high pressure (c 4000 psi) tubing, issues with leaks, issues with it absorbing water, aid bubbles etc.

Front runners for the generator system are miniature un-lubricated gas turbine systems with direct coupled generators and fuel cell systems.

No one is planning on replacing the high bypass gas turbines hanging under the wings *anytime* soon.

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Mushroom

Head full of fuck..

Why are you people talking about an electric turbine as if a turbine is something that can be driven by electricity? That makes no sense at all! A turbine converts fluid flow into mechanical energy and occasionally thence into electrical energy, going the other way you do not have a turbine but a compressor or pump.

Fuck me.

Torn between the nuke icon or ironic use of the "degree level" icon... or the pint because it's enough to drive a man to drink.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Head full of fuck..

Perhaps then they should be referred to as "blowers" or "super-hairdryers" ;)

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A modern day Howard Hughes?

a new electric underwired bra car?

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Happy

Musk has something Americans have difficulty understanding.

It's called a "Sense of humor"

And he's quite adept at thinking on his feet when using it. Anyone remember the question about being a Bond villain and his quip that "I don't have any collarless jackets in my wardrobe"?

He may also be aware of the story of HH sinking a *lot* of money (for the time) into a SoA steam powered car. Logically quite reasonable (team found a way to solve most problems after a fashion) but practically completely bonkers.

I suspect this is more of a ribbing than a serious idea and (as a graduate physicist) he'd know just how *much* energy such a machine would need.

There is a reason why you cannot buy a high *thrust* ion drive for rockets.

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Re: Musk has something Americans have difficulty understanding.

"It's called a "Sense of humor""

Right, because the nation that produced The Marx Brothers, Woody Allen, and The Simpsons obviously has no sense of humor. Hell, just look at whom we elect and tell me we have no sense of humor.

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Happy

Re: Musk has something Americans have difficulty understanding.

The US has some excellent *professional* comics. It's just the individuals who can have a SOH bypass.

As your reaction neatly demonstrates.

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Happy

Iron man 2

Wasn't this dialogue from his cameo in Iron Man 2?

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Re: Iron man 2

Hopefully we won't have to wait long for Elon Musk to unveil his crime-fighting super suit.

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Hmm

Had that Elon Musk on the phone once. He called me.

"So, Tim, this scandium, should I use it in my rockets?"

"Doing much welding of them?"

"No"

"No".

"Thank you, goodbye".

Doesn't waste time Mr. Musk, could be why he gets so much done.....

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