Machine-learning technology trialled on part of Wessex Water’s sewerage network has identified early forming sewer blockages in real-time with a 92% accuracy rate, whilst also enabling an operational shift to condition-based maintenance approach, explains Brian Moloney, managing director of StormHarvester, a firm specialising in the automated monitoring and control of drainage infrastructure.
The potential of artificial technology (AI) to transform sewer network management has been demonstrated during a three-month trial of StormHarvester’s Intelligent Sewer Suite with Wessex Water in the city of Bath. The technology quickly demonstrated its value, with over 60 early blockage formations detected in real-time and control room alerts reduced by a staggering 97 per cent.
Managing sewer blockages represents a significant operational challenge for water and wastewater utilities. As well as problems arising from the blockages themselves, heavy rainfall events often trigger hundreds of alarms simply because of high levels within the sewer network caused by rainfall runoff. The volume of these alarms during wet weather periods can be overwhelming for operational and maintenance teams.
The incumbent rules-based alarm system operating in the Wessex Water control room generated some 4,500 alarms during the trial period, yet StormHarvester’s Intelligent Sewer Suite of AI tools was able to mute alarms where the high sewer levels were predicted by the AI software due to rainfall, reducing the total to 138, of which 124 were genuine blockage formations or sensor faults. This gave the utility’s operational and maintenance crews capacity to respond rapidly to each alarm, even during periods of heavy rainfall.
The initiative started in Spring 2020 when Wessex Water invited 16 technology companies from around the world to demonstrate the value of applying artificial intelligence to the wastewater network. As a finalist, Belfast-based StormHarvester was invited to run a three-month trial to carry out proof of concept.
The trial took place from June to August 2020 in the wastewater catchment of the historic city of Bath, Somerset, which comprises 3,500km of sewerage, representing 10% of Wessex’s total. Intelligent Sewer Suite was applied to an array of 98 level sensors already present in the network – 89 at combined sewer overflow (CSO) sites and the remainder at pumping lift stations.
Intelligent Sewer Suite uses machine-learning, an AI application that enables systems to automatically learn and improve from experience without being explicitly programmed to do so. The StormHarvester system’s smart machine-learning algorithms and predictive analysis tools were applied to catchment sensor data and corresponding hyperlocal rain forecasts to predict the wastewater flow levels and detect potential early blockage formations in real-time.
Wessex Water wanted to test the ability of machine-learning to:
• Predict blockage formations in sewer pipes and pumping stations early and intervene before they became service failures
• Better separate genuine control room alarms from alarms triggered because of high volume rainfall during wet weather
• Dramatically improve the response time to service failures
Blockages can lead to costly service failures including pollution or flooding events, but if spotted early enough, they can be quickly remedied. Wet weather makes it difficult to differentiate expected high sewer levels caused by heavy rainfall volumes from those arising from restrictions such as partial or total blockages.
By deploying AI with the capacity to differentiate between these different events, both an improvement in alarm quality and alarm rationalisation is made possible.
Intelligent Sewer Suite took only three weeks to set-up before it started providing usable results and did not require any hydraulic models.
The process included the extraction of historic sewer-level data and rainfall levels within a 1.5km2 grid for each of the 98 monitored assets. Tens of millions of iterative machine-learning calculations were then undertaken in order to ‘learn’ sewer asset behaviour in both dry and wet weather periods.
Accurate threshold forecasting
Safe operating windows for assets in the network were predicated based on a number of factors including time-of-day, day-of-week, hyperlocal rainfall and local river levels. These dynamic thresholds are predicted for six hours into the future and are updated every 15 minutes, at asset level, which is one of the keys to such accurate forecasting.
The real-time predictions and blockage alerts are used to identify potential non-compliant, out-of-sewer pollution events before they occur. Maintenance crews can be proactively directed to these locations to remedy issues before they arise or worsen, mitigating service failures.
Edmund Willatts, asset reliability engineer, Wessex Water said, “The StormHarvester system used machine-learning to set safe operating windows or thresholds for each asset. Each time these had a significant breach, we received alerts, which in turn were passed to the operations team so that they could respond.”
The Environment Agency is seeking a zero level of pollution incidents for the water industry in England and puts incidents into four categories, with Category 4 being the least serious and having no impact on company performance. Category 3 incidents can impact on performance commitments and risk breaches of environmental protection and water industry legislation. They can also lead to significant costs, including emergency response charges and penalties from regulators.
Results from the three-month trial showed significant alarm rationalisation and a high degree of accuracy in blockage detection. Over 60 early blockage formations were detected in real-time, at least two of which were likely to have caused pollution incidents – Environment Agency Category 3 or worse. Over 60 telemetry and sensor faults were also detected.
Jody Knight, asset technology manager at Wessex Water said, “The StormHarvester team identified sewer blockages that using our normal working processes we may not have spotted until they had resulted in unwanted sewer overflow events.”
Deployment of StormHarvester’s AI approach was shown to be 92% accurate, with no blockages missed. Additionally, a 97% reduction in control alarms was achieved with only 138 in total – little more than one-a-day over the period.
Wessex Water considered the alerts provided by StormHarvester to be a major improvement on the status quo, where operational staff were regularly overwhelmed by the large number of high-level and overflow alarms occurring during periods of heavy rainfall. It also makes the potential for predictive maintenance very realistic in the near future.
Willatts said, “This condition-based sewer maintenance versus the scheduled cleaning regime will be key to making operational teams more productive and efficient going forward.”
The Wessex pilot revealed that StormHarvester technology has the capability for:
• High blockage prediction accuracy – 92% of alerts were relevant and required and not a single blockage resulting in a pollution incident was missed
• Few false positives – 8% of alerts were false positives
• Long-range blockage prediction – early blockage formations identified up to eight weeks before they would have resulted in service failures
• Condition-based maintenance – the three-month trial has enabled a shift in approach.
• Control room alarm rationalisation – a 97% reduction in control room alerts was achieved versus business as usual
Knight said, “One of the biggest problems we have serving our customers is not knowing where and when blockages will occur, or are likely to occur, in the wastewater network. During the three-month trial, StormHarvester identified at least two incidents that we are fairly confident would have resulted in Category 3 spillages, or worse, if it was not for the early blockage detection alerts received and the subsequent action taken by Wessex operational staff.”
Neil Macdonald, co-founder of StormHarvester said, “The results have been excellent. Wessex Water have been great to work with and this trial has proven that Intelligent Sewer Suite is effective at scale.
“This is further endorsement of our five-year journey and multimillion pound investment to build an effective AI solution combining machine-learning, predictive analytics and hyperlocal rainfall forecasting leading to intelligent sewers that serve customers, communities and the environment.”
He added, “Our technology proves that predictive maintenance is possible, with early blockage detection occurring from hours to weeks in advance. This represents a significant increase in the available time for operational crews to recover and repair assets.
“StormHarvester sees this as a real game-changer, with a clear route to achieving efficiencies for wastewater utilities, reducing wastewater pollution and both internal and curtilage flooding.”
Based on the value brought by the StormHarvester alerts during the proof-of-concept trial, Wessex Water has maintained the solution running on the Bath wastewater catchment into 2021.
Brian Moloney, managing director, StormHarvester, is hosting two roundtables at the SWAN 11th Annual Conference: Redefining Smart Water, where he will speak about the use of AI to detect early forming blockages in Wessex Water’s network. The virtual event takes place from 24-28 May. To register visit www.swan-2021.com #SWAN2021
Vollkswagen Rethinks US Sales Strategy After Biden EV Push
According to a report by The Detroit Bureau, Thomas Ulbrich, Volkswagen’s product development officer, told the press last week that his company will “realign … in a massive way” its EV sales strategy in the US as a result of President Biden’s policy initiatives designed to boost EV adoption. Ulbrich’s remarks were first reported by Bloomberg News.
Biden has proposed spending $174 billion to promote the sale of electric cars in the US. Much of that money will be used to expand America’s EV charging infrastructure, but there are also incentives for companies who manufacture electric cars in America using American workers and American-made parts, particularly batteries.
Volkswagen is constructing a new EV factory adjacent to the facility where it builds conventional cars in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The new plant is scheduled to manufacture the ID.4 electric SUV and one other electric model yet to be named. Ulbrich’s announcement contained no details, which leaves the door wide open for us to speculate.
Volkswagen has decided not to import the ID.3 hatchback to America, presumably because Americans won’t buy sedans and don’t really care for hatchbacks. They want SUVs, SUVs, and more SUVs. Ford, GM, and Chrysler have all but stopped manufacturing sedans because of falling demand. And yet, Tesla seems to be having no problem selling all the Model 3 sedans it can bolt together in its factory in Fremont, California. There is some sort of disconnect there and maybe Volkswagen could decide to bring the ID.3 to American shores after all.
Volkswagen will also offer the ID.6, an SUV with third row seating, in China shortly. Could that be an option for America, where demand for 3rd row seating is growing? There is also the ID.5, which is an ID.4 with a more coupe-like roofline for those who say they want an SUV but don’t really like the look of one. And what about the ID. Buzz — the battery electric reincarnation of the iconic VW Microbus? Demand for that vehicle could be insanely strong in the US. The Detroit Bureau says that vehicle will be built in Mexico.
At that news conference in Munich last week, company officials talked about new EV products that are in development, including the AeroB, an electric station wagon, and something code named Trinity, which is supposed to be a “Tesla fighter” — whatever that means.
Will any of those models make it to America? We simply don’t know. All we do know is that policy initiatives drive changes in manufacturing policy. Biden’s plan is massive and it will have equally massive impacts on the kinds of vehicles sold in America and the companies that build them. That, in turn, will have significant effects on domestic employment.
The prior administration promised to save American jobs in industries facing extinction. The Biden proposal will create jobs in industries with unlimited growth potential. If Volkswagen’s course change is any indication, the Biden plan is already having the desired effect.
The Jetson Bolt Rideable Electric — CleanTechnica Review
The Jetson Bolt is a cute little electric rideable that makes it easy and affordable to get around. While it may look like an electric bike, the Bolt isn’t packing any pedals or gears, which makes it easy for just about anyone to simply hop on, twist the throttle and go.
Disclaimer: Jetson sent the Bolt to the author free of charge for the purposes of this review.
As an electric rideable, the Bolt is well suited to excel. It is compact, it is relatively lightweight, and the handlebars fold down for easier storage in the trunk of a car or to bring it onto a bus or train. At just $399, it’s hard to find any faults with the Bolt and that’s ok. The seat isn’t adjustable, but you don’t need to adjust it because you won’t be pedaling.
Just sit down, grab on, and twist the throttle and you’re off to the races. As a compact bike, it arrives mostly assembled. We had it out of the box and ready to ride in about ten minutes. Most of that was spent pulling off the packaging that ensures it arrives at its destination unscathed.
After topping the battery up, we headed out for a ride and found the Bolt to be extremely easy to use. A twist throttle outright controls how much power the 250 watt motor puts out, complemented by a simple 4-bar LED indicator that lets you know how much battery power is left. The focus is on simplicity and it works brilliantly.
Below the battery state of charge indicator is a small cruise control button. After getting the throttle to the right position, simply tap the button to maintain that throttle setting until the brake is pressed. It’s a simple yet effective way to eliminate the need to hold the throttle torqued back for long rides. On the left hand side, a massive toggle button switches the integrated front and rear LED lights on and off with a power button just below. A small but effective bell is the final addition to the handlebars.
How quickly you are able to get up to speed with the 250 watt motor depends on your weight. At just over 200 pounds, the Bolt isn’t a rocket with me on it, but it does a fine job of moving me around on flat land. Gradual inclines are possible, but come with a noticeably reduced acceleration. Any sort of serious incline brings the acceleration to a crawl and definitely has an impact on the distance that can be traveled on a charge.
The Bolt’s small size makes it the ideal vehicle for use on public transit. Ok, maybe you won’t use it *on* a bus or train, but it’s a great form factor for getting from the house to the bus station or from work to the train. When the time comes to get on board, the integrated carrying handle provides a convenient, centered lifting point for the Bolt.
Two small pegs provide a place for your feet to perch while underway. They don’t look like much, but they were fine with me on it and I’m at the upper end of the weight capacity.
Overall, the Bolt proved to be a rather capable little electric people mover as long you realize its limitations. It is not a bicycle, does not have pedals, and has a relatively low-power motor. All of that was done with intention as it translates to a low cost, lightweight people mover that’s easy to use and store.
It would make a great people mover over short, flat terrain like on college campuses, work campuses, around downtown areas while on vacation, to and from transit stops, and much more. Its compact size make it easy to store in an RV or boat and the lack of a chain means you don’t have to worry about getting grease all over your things.
Head over to Jetson’s site for all the details about the Bolt or to purchase one for yourself for $399. As of this writing, they also have refurbished models available for $299, which feels like a solid deal as well.
Jetson Bolt Rideable Electric Specs
- Motor: 250 watt rear hub motor
- Battery: 36V, 5.2Ah rechargeable lithium-ion
- Range: Up to 17 miles per charge
- Max Speed: Up to 15 mph
- Weight: 34 lb
- Weight Capacity: 250 lb
- Tires: 12 1/2″ x 2 1/4″
- Connectivity: Bluetooth connectivity via Jetson’s app
All images credit: Kyle Field, CleanTechnica
I Unknowingly Rode In The Tesla Model S Plaid With “What’s Inside?” (Video Review)
What’s Inside?, a highly popular YouTube Channel, got to experience the Tesla Plaid Model S. I was also in the car, but I didn’t realize who was in the front seat at the time. It wasn’t until Eli Burton told me well after the ride was over that I found out who that was. Dan, the host, shared his experience in the video below and it was pretty neat seeing my own reactions from a different perspective. I’m grateful that I rode with Dan and Eli and that Dan included my reactions in his video.
I don’t have a camera setup like Dan has and only had my iPhone 7 to document my own experience, so am rather grateful that my experience is included in Dan’s video. And the way he blended my voice during the beginning was fun, too. And, yes, that’s me saying, “Oh, s****!
You can also see me (teal-haired lady) behind Dan as we were getting into the shiny new vehicle. The first thing I noticed was that new car smell as we strapped in and took off. “The Teslas are racing over there and it is so fast,” Dan says excitedly in the video. After putting on a plaid mask that Tesla gave out (yes, I got one, too), Dan shared footage of the redone racing track at the Fremont factory.
“They have a redone racing track right here where they have the plaid lights all set up. They’re going to let everybody get inside these cars and take test drives around. It’s going to be a fun night. So I’m going to bring you along for the ride, show you what’s new, and give you my thoughts as a Model S owner and a Tesla owner.”
After Elon left the stage, Dan shared his thoughts: “I currently have a Tesla Model S. It’s the 2020 model. It’s a fantastic car, but I will be honest, after watching some of the things with the exterior and the interior of the changes that they did with this Plaid version, it makes me think that maybe I need that.”
Dan noted that the air-cooled seats were fantastic and said that the screen system, the computer chips, and how they worked are “really, really good.”
He also said that he loved the air vents and how they function and that you can sit in the back seat and actually be comfortable. I can verify this since I sat behind Dan in the back seat. For most of my life, I’ve been obese (childhood obesity is a major problem here in the U.S.), and although I’ve lost a lot of weight over the past couple of years due to a much healthier lifestyle, I still have a ways to go. Sitting in the back seat of cars has been a struggle for me, but I was comfortable in the Plaid — didn’t feel cramped at all.
Dan also spoke about the better range. “I’m always the person that likes to have better range over better performance. If the Model S Long Range has the seats, has all of the different features, other than maybe the carbon engine and the super fast side of it, I could see myself getting a long range Model S.”
The Test Ride
“I’m about to go into the fastest car in production history,” Dan said as he, Eli, and I got into the vehicle. Dan asked our driver, Michael, how many rides he could give before he would get sick. Michael said that he does this all day. Dan then gives a better view of the display than my camera picked up. “This is all new, the heads-up display. All the Model 3, Model Y people that hate the display, look at that. It looks sick!”
Michael asked us if we were ready and told us to hold on tight. As we approached the plaid lights, I remember feeling a rush of excitement when Michael explained that we were going into Cheetah Mode. Tesla’s Cheetah Mode or stance, whichever you prefer to call it, is where the car’s front end crouches when launch control is activated — much like the crouch a cheetah takes before it goes after its prey.
“The front settles down and then holds itself down so you get continuous front friction,” Dan explained as Michael told us to lean our heads back. “Everybody ready?” Michael asked. I nodded as the others said yes and Michael floored it.
— Johnna Crider, The 1 and Only (@JohnnaCrider1) June 11, 2021
It really was as if we were taking off in an airplane — but much more intense. Elon Musk explained earlier in the day that the peak acceleration of the Plaid Model S is over 1.2 Gs and is 20% faster than falling. For those who don’t know the details of a g-force, this is a measure of acceleration and 1 G is what we feel due to the force of gravity.
Peak acceleration is over 1.2 g’s, which is 20% faster than falling
— Elon Musk, the 2nd (@elonmusk) June 18, 2021
“I literally felt like something was pushing me against the back of my chair,” I said. And it did. Honestly, as I watch the video, it doesn’t do justice to the experience. You have to feel this rush for yourself to understand just how intense and fun it truly is.
“So, during acceleration, you get about 1.3 to 1.4 G, so you’re effectively getting pushed back harder than you’re sitting down,” Michael explained to us.
“I know I said that I want a Long Range Tesla, but maybe I need Plaid Mode!” Dan said. Yes, Dan, you need Plaid Mode.
After we got out of the vehicle, Tesla employees gave us this fun little informational card about the Plaid Model S:
On it is a graph showing the ¼-mile acceleration time of the Tesla Model S Plaid compared to three other vehicles. It was dated May 11, 2021, and these stats were logged at the Famoso Dragstrip where Jay Leno broke the world record in the Tesla Model S Plaid. The vehicles and times are as follows:
- Model S Plaid: 9.227 seconds.
- Chiron Sport. 9.4 seconds.
- 918 Spyder: 9.7 seconds.
- Taycan Turbo: 103 seconds.
- Hellcat: 10.8 seconds.
Dan Shared More Thoughts On His Experience
“I guess I know what Plaid Mode is now. With a Tesla, usually, you get that initial launch, and it’s like, whoa! And then it just kind of lets off. It’s still picking up and going faster and faster, but not at the same rate as what this does.”
I’ve experienced a 0–60 mph rush in a Model 3 Performance before and I can agree that the Plaid experience is unlike any experience I’ve ever had in any vehicle.
“That initial boom that you get that throws you in the back of your seat, you continue to get it more and more as he continues to go forward,” Dan further explained. You can watch Dan’s full video here.
As I’ve said before and in other articles, my experience with cars is very limited. I never learned how to drive and never really had access to a car to learn. Here in Louisiana, you have to take a state driving course if you’ve never driven before and I’m currently saving up for that while taking a few lessons with a friend when she has time.
That aside, I’ve had test rides in fun vehicles here and there before and I often use Uber when it’s available (lately, there’s been a driver shortage for both Uber and Lyft here). Throughout all of my life, I can honestly say that being in a Tesla is vastly different from being in a regular fossil fuel car. It’s even much different from being in other EVs. I’ve ridden in a few EVs at different events here in the state, and they are designed very differently. But the Model S Plaid is even vastly more different.
In my initial article documenting my experience in the Model S Plaid, I didn’t include some of the details that Michael shared — and, honestly, this was because I was caught up in the moment. Also, my audio didn’t pick up Michael’s information as clearly as Dan’s did.
I will say this to end this article: the Plaid Model S was the best Tesla — and vehicle — I’ve ever ridden in.
Electric Planes Are Inevitable
In a short documentary about airlines, Wendover Productions shares why electric planes are inevitably coming. “It doesn’t currently make sense for airlines to care about climate change,” the narrator of the video said. These are some of the top polluters in the transportation industry, but they basically just get a pass due to a lack of cleaner alternatives.
For airlines, the thing that enables profits is to not care about climate change. Global warming mitigation efforts to adequately make up for airline emissions would cost so much that the airline companies would suffer financially — not something they are willing to do if not forced.
“Carbon doesn’t have a cost for airlines. With few exceptions, emitting more carbon does not cost the airlines anything, but it enables them to make more profit. So, the theoretically correct thing for airlines to do is to emit the amount of carbon that enables them to generate the most profit, regardless of environmental consequences.”
Airlines sometimes do care about climate change for public relations reasons — it looks good to care about the planet, or to pretend to care about the planet if you are convincing enough. Airlines that are seen as “green” or “greener” are usually more desirable to those wanting to fight climate change. It’s the consumers, not the for-profit businesses, who are demanding that the businesses care.
“Net carbon-zero is expensive. Biofuel development is expensive. Sustainable aircraft development is expensive. All more expensive than would make sense if airlines and aircraft developers exclusively cared about PR.”
Why Airlines Are Starting To Take Climate Change Seriously
The narrator explained that airlines and aircraft manufacturers are terrified of regulation. In France, the national assembly passed a bill that would ban short-haul flights on routes that could be traveled in 2½ hours or less by train. Several other European countries have proposed similar bills, and airlines just don’t have good enough arguments against these regulations.
“A move away from the shortest-haul, most replaceable flights will be the start, but it won’t end there.”
Since airlines are one of the more carbon-intensive industries, they will start facing these challenges — unless they become less carbon-intensive. That is, unless they take fighting climate change seriously — see it as something they need to do rather than as an act to simply appear green.
The narrator noted that flying won’t stop and governments won’t restrict it — and that it’s needed. However, governments will put pressure on the industry to reduce its carbon footprint. One way is to have airlines price their carbon footprint into the cost of flying. They can do this by structuring so that greener flying is cheaper flying. A great example of this is hefty carbon taxes.
Why Electric Planes are Inevitably Coming https://t.co/BGzWSS1tlz @JohnnaCrider1 @KlenderJoey @Teslarati @13ericralph31 @Tesmanian_com @openculture @michelle0728 @llsethj @woodhaus2 @gtwhitesides @hankgreen @sweeneysays
— Daniel Buk (@DanBuk4) June 16, 2021
Airlines Care About Climate Change Because It’s Competitive To Do So
The video pointed out that the airline industry cares because airline companies are pragmatic. Some of the things that have helped this industry so far are biofuels, engine efficiency improvements, and carbon offsetting.
One solution that can really turn flying into an actually sustainable method of transportation is the creation of electric aircraft. These already exist, and more are being developed. As the underlying technologies improve and become cheaper, it will become much more feasible to develop larger passenger and cargo electric aircraft. (So far, we are talking about rather small planes with quite limited range/capabilities.)
“There’s not a whole lot technologically that has or is preventing electric aircraft from existing. What is, is the business case. Batteries are just more expensive and less energy dense than fuel, so with carbon emissions always having been free for airlines, it’s just always made sense to use petroleum-based fuel.”
When you think about that for a moment, you can also see that a high price on carbon would result in a quicker transition to electric aircraft.
The narrator pointed out another challenge: developing aircraft is pretty expensive and getting an aircraft certified for commercial use using a new type of motor is even more so. So, why should an aircraft company go through all of this for something that doesn’t make sense in the business case? The answer to that question is the evolution of the said business case.
New Business Case In Favor Of Clean Energy
For the first time, there’s a new and strong hypothesis of a business case that’s been developed and if it works, it could dramatically shift how commercial aircraft work in generations.
“Electric aircraft inherently have constraints. While much progress has been made in the past decade to bring down the price of batteries, and they now cost 1/10th as much per kilowatt-hour compared to a decade ago, less has been done to increase battery energy density — that is, the amount of electricity stored per pound or kilogram.”
The narrator explained that with EVs, weight doesn’t matter with the primary novel application. It’s easier to increase the range by bringing down costs and add more batteries instead of improving their energy density. For aircraft, it’s much different. The lighter they are, the further they can fly. Adding additional batteries to provide the energy to carry the weight of those batteries is something aircraft need to do in order to fly further.
Another thing explained in the video is that all of the viable electric aircraft are propeller-driven, mainly because of the cost. It’s more costly to develop an electric jet engine. Also, it saves time for short-range flights.
“Airlines need to find a use case for short-range, slow, electric aircraft. Conveniently, it already exists.”
The narrator explained that United Airlines flies to sixteen destinations less than 250 miles or 400 kilometers away from its Denver, Colorado hub. These destinations include Aspen, Montrose, and a few others that are high-yield and high-frequency locations even though they are close to Denver.
These flights also connect tourists to popular ski towns. The narrator spoke of Widerøe in Norway. Out of its 47 destinations, 19 are within 250 miles of Widerøe’s Tromsø hub. Many of these routes are over distances fewer than that. Another airline, Cape Air, doesn’t fly any routes over 250 miles in length.
“The use case for electric aircraft already exists because airlines like Cape Air have already found it, just not yet using electric aircraft. They fly from hubs to small destinations on 9-seat propeller aircraft and partner with mainline airlines to offer connecting itineraries.”
For them, the range constraints plaguing electric aircraft don’t really matter since the routes are short. The speed constraints are also irrelevant in this case. In the case of Cape Air, electric aircraft could easily replace all of its flights and also take over some of Delta, JetBlue, United, and other larger airlines’ routes.
How Cape Air Could Be The Highest Operating-Margin Airline In The World
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Order Re-Selecting Airline is a document for its essential air service subsidized flights from Boston Logan Airport to August and Rockland. Routes such as the smaller, remote communities across the nation are subsidized by the U.S. government. This is to improve connectivity and economic opportunity in these areas.
Since the bids from airlines to operate these routes are public records, the video was able to look at Cape Air’s records and see just how the airline benefited, while making a case for switching to electric airplanes. Cape Air won the bid to operate the route to Rockland, Maine — receiving a subsidy of $2,218,126 for the first year — 2019–2019. That number grew to almost $2.5 million by their fourth year. Rockland has a tourist season but is normally quieter during the winter months. Cape Air’s flights to Rockland vary due to this and they can operate anywhere between three daily round-trip flights in the winter and six in the summer.
Breaking Down The Math
“They’re obligated to operate some 1,365 flights annually representing 12,285 total available passenger seats in each direction. According to Cape Air’s estimates, this route should cost some $3,350,746 a year to operate. They estimated some 15,122 total passengers would fly but publicly available data shows that only 6,733 boarded their planes in Rockland in 2019.
“Assuming it’s roughly the same in the other direction, as one would expect, that means they saw only 13,466 total passengers, representing a 54.8% load factor. Selling tickets for an average of $83, the airline likely, therefore, brought in $1,117,678, which combined with their $2,247,721 year-two subsidy means that they earned some $3,365,399 in revenue. Subtracting their annual cost estimates, that means they only turned $14,653 in profit or $1.09 worth per passenger.
This shows just how tight airlines’ margins can be. But what would they be if they were operated by electric airplanes? Excessive fuel costs would be the first thing to go. Electricity, although not free, has a much lower cost compared to fossil fuel. Electricity can also be converted into capital costs instead of an ongoing cost by investing in solar or wind energy generation, which is something Cape Air has been eyeing.
For Cape Air, its $844,002 in annual fuel costs could be eliminated if it made the switch to electric. Other costs would go up and ownership cost would probably double, at least. Maintenance costs would be much lower than with traditional internal combustion driven aircraft — similar to electric cars.
The three factors together put Cape Air on track for a 40% reduction in operating costs, which is notable.
“On their Rockland route, assuming no change in revenue, that would take $1.09 in per passenger profit and turn it into $100.62 — a number so dramatically different that it doesn’t even sound correct.”
The video has other examples, and its key point is that electric aircraft aren’t just inevitable, but make the most sense by far. The proven business case along with the case study of Cape Air shows a glimpse of the financial benefits airlines would have by making the switch to electric for their shorter routes.
You can watch the full video here.
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