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Elon Musk Tesla Electric Plane
AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu
Have some battery

Elon Musk is thinking about building an electric airplane that takes off vertically

Kate Groetzinger
By Kate Groetzinger

Ideas fellow

Electric cars and and commercial spaceflight are clearly not enough. Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said he’s mulling how to provide super-convenient, electric-powered air travel.

When asked to reveal his “next great idea” during a brief Q&A session this week, Musk answered: “Well I have been thinking about the vertical takeoff and landing electric jet a bit more. I mean, I think I have something that might close. I’m quite tempted to do something about it.”

Neither the idea of an electric jet or a plane with the capacity for vertical take off and landing is revolutionary by itself. In June 2015, an electric aircraft crossed the English Channel for the first time. Meanwhile, Denver-based XTI Aircraft Company has been raising money to prototype a vertical-takeoff airplane, which the company says could be ready in three years. And Solar Impulse 2, a solar-powered aircraft, set a record in 2015 by crossing the Pacific Ocean.

Musk first mentioned combining the two concepts last fall.

“I do like the idea of an electric-aircraft company. I think one could do a pretty cool supersonic, vertical takeoff and landing electric jet. That would be really fun… I have a design in mind for that,” he told Marketplace in Oct. 2015.

Addressing students this week, he hinted that he may be ready to take it a step further. After comparing the concept of a vertical takeoff electric plane to his initial plans for SpaceX, Musk added: “I think, ultimately, seeing is believing. Seeing physical hardware moving and doing useful things, that’s what convinces people.”

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