Wright Weport July 2017

Dear all,
Welcome to the Wright Weport for July 2017.
Summary:
  • Why Wright: Lower emissions, lower costs
  • Technical update: Electric boats
  • Business update: Seeking partner for prototype 4-6 seat electric plane
  • In the news: Student electric plane, reducing emissions, electric vehicle regulation
  • Past weports: here
Why Wright
  • Lower emissions
    • From the New York Times: “For many people reading this, air travel is their most serious environmental sin. One round-trip flight from New York to Europe or to San Francisco creates a warming effect equivalent to 2 or 3 tons of carbon dioxide per person. The average American generates about 19 tons of carbon dioxide a year; the average European, 10. So if you take five long flights a year, they may well account for three-quarters of the emissions you create.”
      • Takeaway: Electric airplanes have the potential to be zero emissions.
  • Lower costs
    • From a past weport (and via Tony Seba): Kodak’s business model was to charge per photo. Every click was money for Kodak. Digital cameras, by contrast, have zero marginal costs. Once a photographer has a digital camera, the incremental cost of each picture drops to zero.
    • Fuel’s business model is like Kodak’s. Every gallon is money for the fuel companies. Solar/wind is like a digital camera. Once someone has a solar panel, the incremental cost of each watt drops to zero.
      • Takeaway: Electric planes have the potential to be lower cost than fuel planes.
Note: we’re planning to include a “Why Wright” section in each Weport for context. 
Technical Update
As Wright works to break down boundaries in electric aviation, we are keeping an eye on the technology used in hybrid and all-electric boats.
It is particularly interesting to compare the scale of energy storage and propulsion power in large electric ferry boats to the scale that will be needed for airliners.
Roughly speaking, today’s largest electric ferries store one quarter the energy and use one tenth the power that would be needed for a short electric airliner route.
Last year, XALT energy announced that it will provide batteries for two massive electric ferries, each carrying 4.16 megawatt hours of energy. Those ferries once ran on diesel power and are being retrofitted with electric propulsion systems. One of the ferries is expected to begin service by end of summer. Each time the ferry docks, it will be automatically connected to a recharging station by a robot arm.
An electric ferry boat already in service, the Ampere, makes 34 trips per day carrying up to 120 cars at a time. It has a pair of 450 kw electric motors and carries about 1 megawatt hour of energy in its battery packs. The Norwegian vessel does not burn any fuel or produce any emissions, so don’t call it a Fjord hybrid. It has been in service since 2015.

Ampere electric ferry
Maritime air pollution is enormous. Large ships run on diesel, and diesel particles can cause health problems. For example, the section of Los Angeles where air quality is most likely to increase cancer risk is the Port of Los Angeles.
Several reports estimate that hybrid and electric maritime products will reach $20 billion in the late 2020s, with propulsion systems accounting for about a quarter of the opportunity. While most of the products developed for electric seafaring will not be suitable for use in aircraft, the reverse is not true. Components designed for electric aircraft could likely be repurposed for use in boats.
Business Update
We’re retrofitting a fuel plane to test out various components of our propulsion system (motors, propellers, transmission, etc.). The plane will be in the 4-6 seat size, potentially up to 9 seats.
We’re looking for an organization that is interested in testing this plane with us. The prototype plane will have lower emissions and noise.
Perhaps you’re an environmental group that scans large tracts of land via a Cessna 172; maybe you’re an agriculture company that uses a Thrush with your crops. We’d love to speak.
Let us know if anything comes to mind? Thank you in advance!
 
In the News
People
Thanks to Jenn, Joe, Noam, Randy, Doug, Ian, Ben, Andy, Chip, Darold and Karen, Brian, Tuto, Elsa, Sergio, John, Phil, Stonly, Sergio, Mike, Jason, Anna, Paul, Charif, Atin, Zach, Shaun, Sabrina, Jon, Scott, Bennett, Abe, Jude, Kate, Scott, Mrod, Aaron, Andrew, Bart, Dean, Gustaf, Neel, Andrew, Daniel, Ralph, Colin, Meridith, and everyone else who helped out and/or sent over words of encouragement.
See you in August!
Electrically,
Jeff and Aaron
PS: We really hope you’re enjoying these updates. But if at any time you’d like to stop receiving them, please just do so here. No hard feelings — we all understand inbox overload!
 

Wright Weport June 2017

Dear all,

Welcome to the Wright Weport for June 2017.

Summary

  • Why Wright: Lower emissions, lower costs
  • Technical update: Prototyping, batteries, autonomy
  • Business update: Y Combinator, 10 plane LOI
  • Electric aviation news: EViation, Axter, ONERA
  • Past weports: here

Note: you’re receiving this because you signed up for the newsletter on our website. Welcome! 

Why Wright

  • Lower emissions
    • From the New York Times: “For many people reading this, air travel is their most serious environmental sin. One round-trip flight from New York to Europe or to San Francisco creates a warming effect equivalent to 2 or 3 tons of carbon dioxide per person. The average American generates about 19 tons of carbon dioxide a year; the average European, 10. So if you take five long flights a year, they may well account for three-quarters of the emissions you create.”
      • Takeaway: Electric airplanes have the potential to be zero emissions.
  • Lower costs
    • From a past weport (and via Tony Seba): Kodak’s business model was to charge per photo. Every click was money for Kodak. Digital cameras, by contrast, have zero marginal costs. Once a photographer had a digital camera, the incremental cost of each picture drops to zero.
    • Fuel’s business model is like Kodak’s. Every gallon is money for the fuel companies. Solar/wind is like a digital camera. Once someone has a solar panel, the incremental cost of each watt drops to zero.
      • Takeaway: Electric planes have the potential to be lower cost than fuel planes.

Technical Update

  • Prototyping
    • Wright will begin building a wide range of test articles this fall, from small models to larger wing segments. We’ve been impressed by modern manufacturing – we’re excited that we get to stand on the shoulders of giants like these:
  • Batteries
    • Europe is aggressively building its battery manufacturing infrastructure. This could lead to a price war in electric vehicle batteries. Battery manufacturers might start looking for new markets to recapture margins.
    • We suggest high-energy-density batteries for aviation! Each large electric plane may need several megawatt hours of batteries. Add in the rise in drones, and it’s a big market.
      • If you know of battery scientists exploring this space, feel to reach out to us.
  • Autonomy
    • Wright is not currently developing flight autonomy systems, but we are watching the hobbyist space with an aim of starting exploratory projects next year.
    • A new hobbyist organization, DIY Robocars, is showing how accessible machine learning and computer vision for vehicle autonomy can be. In a very general way, many of the tools and techniques developed by autonomous car enthusiasts may translate to aircraft.
    • Dronecode 1.6 was released in early June. We may begin tinkering with dronecode shortly.
      • If anyone has experience in this area and is interested in helping out, please feel free to write!

Business Update

  • Y Combinator
    • We went through the Y Combinator accelerator program this winter. The experience was better than we’d imagined. The staff / speakers inspired us with large ideas and brilliant advice. The other founders were rocks on which we leaned during tough times.
    • We’d encourage anyone working on a startup to apply. If you’re thinking of applying, feel free to reach out.
  • Ten plane LOI
    • We’re excited to announce we have a ten plane LOI! We can’t discuss the specifics, but it’s with a wonderful airline that builds on the low-cost model forged by Southwest and easyJet. We are so happy to be working with them.

Electric Aviation News

Lots of e-plane activity at the Paris Air Show:

  • Axter Aerospace makes a hybrid system for small planes that buys an extra 20 minutes if your engine fails.
  • EViation showed off Alice, an awesome six to nine seat electric aircraft. Congrats Omer!
  • The French research agency ONERA showed off its concept for a high wing distributed electric propulsion aircraft.

People

Tons of people to thank: thanks to Noam, Joe, Doug, Randy, Ian, Ben, Andy, Chip, Darold and Karen, Sergio, Mike, Jason, Michael, Blake, John, Bennett, Juan Carlos, Katherine, Ralph, Raja, Michael, Daniel, Omer, Jared, Tony, Scott, Daniel, Karthik, Anna, Paul, Alex, Charif, and everyone else who helped out and/or sent over words of encouragement.

See you in July!

Electrically,
Jeff and Aaron

Wright Weekly Weport May 21 2017

Dear all,
Welcome to the Wright Weekly Weport for May 21.
Summary
  • Goal for this week: begin detailed ConOps, speak with airlines
    • Goal from last week: decide whether to re-open the design space: achieved
  • Seeking airline employee contacts
 
Re-Opening the Design Space Redux
Last week we asked for your guidance on re-opening the design space. Should we jump into building or spend more time in market analysis?
You weporters wrote back with brilliant suggestions. Thank you so much!
  • “Wright Electric Airlines. How does starting your own airline alter your design trade-offs?” -Stanley
  • “I don’t know the answer here but just thought I’d send some support your way” -Sarah
  • “What if accepting the slower, lower cruise saves bunches of fuel and money, allowing lower ticket costs and retaining profits?” -Dean
  • “I don’t think that Henry Ford quote is necessarily that applicable in this case because you’re not creating a totally new product but offering operational advantages with an existing business model to airlines.” -Bennett / Shaun
  • “I’m reminded of the importance of how you ask the questions to the airline. If you ask them to ideate and design it themselves they will use existing paradigms. You may get a more real response if you say “ok, this is what it’s going to be. do you want it?” -Tivan
  • “If you reduce cruise speed, can you find other parts of block time you can cut? E.g., can you make the airplane board and unboard faster?” – Blake
  • “I don’t think you’d actually save fuel by flying at lower altitudes and you’d be subject to more potential weather.” -Todd
  • “Ask not what they want, but how your customer measures success?” -Jeremie
  • “It’s taken us two full vehicle generations to feel strong about the correlation between our simulations and real world results.” -Fred
  • “Beware lower altitude. While it takes less energy to get there, it also adds to drag/Q.” -Rich
  • “We should try to better understand the adoption risk of various reg changes like altitude and possibly speed.” -Bart
  • “How do we optimize for short haul? … Do you need galley? … Less baggage space? … If flying at lower altitude does a v-tail design work as well in turbulent air for stabilizing flight? … [and a ton of other brilliant suggestions]” -Ralph
  • “The general expectation from the end customer is always faster, better, cheaper.” -Jay
  • “Different airlines have been doing a lot of things to address very different segments in the market. … some sacrifices have to be made to address specific segment of the market.” -Jose
  • “It’s basically the question of an MVP.  I fully think that an M0.55 electric aircraft is a perfect MVP.” -Karthik
  • “A quick thought: As an airline pilot, flying above 24,000′ was always better b/c (1) easier to navigate bad weather and (2) better fuel burn. Given that you’ll no longer be concerned about fuel burn, putting pilot weather navigation aside, is there still a need to be at 30,000′ or above?” -Pete
We’re re-opening the design space. There are a million nuances to the short haul market. We feel that if we deeply customize the plane (plus its overall ConOps, or concept of operations) to their needs it’ll have lower costs and a better customer experience. Spending an extra month learning will be worthwhile down the line.
Speaking with Airline Employees
To this end, we’re looking to speak with people who work at airlines that fly 737s/A320s. Low-cost airline, legacy airline, something else. Mechanic (MRO), salesperson, something else. We’re looking to learn as many of the details as possible so we can best design our plane.
If you know anyone who works at an airline, would you mind asking them if they’d be willing to speak? Thank you in advance.
People
Adding one new rock star to the weport distribution list this weeK:
  • Meridith Unger is Founder at Nix
Thanks to Elsa, Tuto, Junco, Sarah, Joe, Wei, Nate, Stanley, Dean, Bennett, Tivan, Blake, Todd, Mary, Jeremie, Fred, Rich, Bart, Ralph, Shaun, Jay, Jose, Karthik, Pete, Aaron, Noam, Darold, Andy, Ben, Chip, Lee, Jenn, Ryan, Naveen, Raja, Ian, Whitney, Ben, Rayyan, Sergio, Jacque, and everyone else who helped out and/or sent over words of encouragement this week.
Hope everyone had a great weekend!
Electrically,
Jeff
PS: We really hope you’re enjoying these updates. But if at any time you’d like to stop receiving them, please just do so here. No hard feelings — we all understand inbox overload!
 
PPS: Wright song of the week: Muñeco – Kual
PPPS: The weport is switching to a monthly schedule this summer because of upcoming travel – see you in late June!

Wright Weekly Weport May 14 2017

Dear all,
Welcome to the Wright Weekly Weport for May 14, Mother’s Day edition.
 
Summary
  • Goal for this week: Decide whether to re-open the design space – seeking guidance
    • Goal from last week: Set specific technical tasks for the next six months: not achieved
 
Considering Re-Opening the Design Space
 
We’re in the weeds on conceptual airframe design. Two weeks ago the team met in LA to discuss where to spend our resources. Should we stick to computer modeling? Or go straight to building hardware? Something else?
One option that’s surfaced is going back into open brainstorming to get even more creative with our plane design. (This is why we didn’t hit our goal of setting specific technical tasks.)
Here’s the rough logic:
  • If our plane has to fit perfectly within an existing airline operations regime, it has to fly at ~30,000 ft and mach ~0.78, similar to today’s Boeing 737.
    • If this is the case, then the ducted fan design (see below) we’ve been considering probably makes a lot of sense because of the efficiency gains.
  • But fitting into this regime requires a bunch of sacrifices.
    • For example, if we’re willing to slow the plane from mach 0.7 to mach 0.55 or mach 0.5, which on a 300 mile flight might only make the flight 10 or 15 percent longer, we can potentially reduce energy consumption needs (costs) by 20 percent or more.
    • Similarly, if we’re willing to fly at lower altitudes, we might further reduce energy costs.
  • Some airlines might not like this. It could be like driving 40 MPH on the highway.
    • But maybe for a new plane design it’s worthwhile.
Here’s the current plane design, courtesy of ESAero:

Note: the boxes on the front part of the wings are ducts that house internal electric motors / fans

The major levers we’re considering pulling are:

  • Speed
  • Altitude
  • Flight profile
  • Passenger cabin volume
  • Baggage carrying limitations

We’re trying to figure out how to think about this. Our first step is going back to the airlines and asking more questions about which of these items are crucial and which can be adjusted.

But we’re also mindful of the Henry Ford quote that if he’d asked people what they wanted they’d have said a faster horse.
Questions for you: Have you encountered this issue before, either in aviation or in other industries? How should we be thinking? Are we at greater risk of analysis paralysis or rash spending? All thoughts / ideas / suggestions welcome. Thank you in advance!
People
Adding nine new rock stars to the weport distribution list this week. As usual, you’re too humble to brag about yourselves, so I’ll do it for you:
  • Aditya Mishra is Founding Partner of Zenprivex
  • Lance White is Senior Vice President at UBS
  • Naveen Jain is Founder at Sparkart Group
  • John D’Orazio is Founder of Proton Enterprises
  • Joe Beard is Partner at Perot Jain
  • Rayyan Islam is an entrepreneur and investor
  • Simon Rothman is Partner at Greylock Partners
  • Wei Deng is CEO of Clipboard Health
  • Elsa Trevino is Founder at Toro Ventures
Thanks to Andy, Aaron, Ben, Jenn, Phil, Rich, Mary, Ralph, Noam, Jude, Raja, Bink, Daniel, Jon, Andrew, Jenny, Rahul, Chris, Katherine, Ben, Rayyan, Simon, Naveen, Wei, Bennett, Kyle, and everyone else who helped out and/or sent over words of encouragement this week.
Hope everyone had a great weekend!
Electrically,
Jeff
PS: We really hope you’re enjoying these updates. But if at any time you’d like to stop receiving them, please just do so here. No hard feelings — we all understand inbox overload!
PPS: Wright song of the week (love you Mom!): I Feel The Earth Move – Carole King

Wright Weekly Weport May 7 2017

Dear all,

Welcome to the Wright Weekly Weport for May 7.
Summary

  • Goal for this week: set specific technical tasks for the next six months
    • Goal from last week: set high level resources, processes, and priorities for the next six months: achieved
  • Aviation video / photos
Setting Specific Technical Tasks
Last Monday we convened a group of ten aviation / battery / electric plane experts in Los Angeles. The goal was to determine our resources, processes, and priorities for the next six months.
We decided we’d like to focus on areas that are high-priority, difficult, and in our control.
  • High priority: if we can’t do it, it forces us to majorly change the design of our plane.
  • Difficult: if we can do it, it’s a legitimate technical contribution to the electric plane community.
  • In our control: batteries might be #1, but the battery manufacturers are spending billions on R&D, so our contribution would be relatively small.
Here’s one area we think we’ll focus on:
A big open question for us is whether we can generate, with electric motors, the >10MW of propulsive power that’s needed for a 150-seater.
Internally we’re confident that it’s possible. There are plenty of >5MW wind turbines, and over-simplistically our electric motors will be like wind turbines in reverse. But there’s a big difference between believing that it’s possible and proving it.
Our first goal is congealing around building a propulsion test stand to prove we can generate, at a meaningful sub-scale level, the propulsion we’ll need for our electric airliner.
This week we’ll dive into the project in more detail, with the goal of narrowing down our objectives to a handful of clearly defined outcomes.
Great quote from Monday’s meeting:
  • “In theory there’s no difference between theory and practice” – Noam
Note: Aaron did an amazing job organizing Monday’s conference. He planned logistics, facilitated conversations, and kept schedules (in fact we ended the scheduled program two hours ahead of time!). He also donated hotel points for our out-of-towners and took us to fantastic donut eateries. Major kudos Aaron! 
 
And thank you to everyone for joining!
Aviation Video / Photos
Two amazing aviation items crossed our desk this week, and we wanted to share them.
First, check out this video of short takeoffs in Alaska. Some of them are fewer than 50 feet!
Significance: planes with short takeoff use less energy than planes with vertical takeoff. One version of Uber’s flying cars might take off from a soccer field rather than a helipad, which means they can use the spare energy to travel to longer distances. 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQJKW5vfvog
Thanks Rich!
Second, check out this photo montage of Airbus’ assembly plant.
Significance: As we start thinking through parts needed for our electric airliner, we’re lucky we can stand on the shoulders of an unbelievably advanced existing supply chain.

Thanks Tarik!
 
 
People
Adding four new rock stars to the weport distribution list this week. As usual, you’re too humble to brag about yourselves, so I’ll do it for you:
  • Brad Gerstner is Founder of Altimeter Capital
  • Paul Moore is Communications Director of easyJet
  • Shaun Abrahamson and Stonly Baptiste are Co-Founders of Urban.Us
Thanks to Sergio, Mary, Ralph, Karthik, Raja, Tori, Paul, Aaron, Bennett, Noam, Doug, Randy, Andy, Ben, Darold, Joe, Brad, Tarik, Rich, Eli, Mady, Charif, George, and everyone else who helped out and/or sent over words of encouragement this week.
And if you’re in SF in late May, check out Travel Tech Con.
Hope everyone had a great weekend!
Electrically,
Jeff
PS: We really hope you’re enjoying these updates. But if at any time you’d like to stop receiving them, please just do so here. No hard feelings — we all understand inbox overload!
 
PPS: Wright song of the week: Fruko y sus Tesos – El Preso

Wright Weekly Weport Apr 30 2017

Dear all,

Welcome to the Wright Weekly Weport for April 30.
Summary
  • Goal for this week: setting resources, processes, and priorities for the next six months
    • Goal from last week: technical focus areas: achieved
  • Mark Moore and electric planes
  • Brilliant insights from weporters
 
Setting Resources, Processes, and Priorities
On Monday a few folks from team Wright are getting together to lay out our roadmap for the next six months.
Here’s our plan:
  • First, we’ll determine our engineering priorities. Last week we discussed seven areas that we’re considering for deep focus. We’ve narrowed down to our top three through pre-discussion, and we’ll likely choose our top two during the meeting.
  • Second, we’ll determine our processes for achieving these priorities. We’ll establish roles and timelines, and we’ll set milestones / stage gates.
  • Lastly, we’ll allocate resources to these processes. We’re stuck with limited time and limited funds, so we have to be clever.
We could not be more excited to set forth with such an amazing team. You are world experts in electric aviation, propulsion, airplane design, startups, and batteries. It’s taken over a year to get everyone together for a meeting like this. We are so grateful to be working with you. Thank you!!!
Mark Moore and Electric Planes
Many of you know that Uber hosted a conference in Dallas last week in support of catalyzing the electric “flying car” industry. Getting manufacturers, regulators, city officials, real estate developers, energy providers, and battery suppliers into one room was no easy feat.
The person behind the scenes is Mark Moore, a former NASA researcher who recently joined Uber as their head of aviation innovation. Mark had been organizing similar conferences at NASA for the past two years, and he’s one of the ringleaders of the entire electric plane movement.
Massive kudos to Mark and the entire innovation team!
Brilliant Insights from Weporters
You weporters have been on a tear lately, and I wanted to share a few of the wisest insights we’ve seen:
  • On how to spend the next few months: “Let me a bit of a contrarian. Spend design dollars, look at design alternatives. Specify parts. But don’t actually build and test anything, costs go up and incremental value is, IMHO, not great.” -Stan
  • On autonomous vehicles (paraphrased from the conference above):
    • Asks audience: “What’s easier, building an autonomous flying system or building an autonomous driving system?” Most hands raise for the former. Then he says:
    • “Everyone thinks building an autonomous flying system is easier because there’s more open space.
      • But decision-making in a car is often binary: ‘There’s a thing in front of you; should I stop or not stop?’ That makes it relatively easy.
      • Decision making in a plane is a higher-order question: ‘What’s on the other side of that cloud, and will I be able to get through it safely?’ That makes is more difficult.
    • “And the consequences in a car are pretty low – usually there’s a way to pull over to the side of the road. In a plane, a wrong move can be bad.” -Ken
  • On electricity prices: “As per your most recent post, I’ve been thinking about the $0 marginal cost of solar (and wind) and that it will totally destroy the utility industry over the next 5 years…. so while you used $0.06, I would use the lower end of your spectrum, $02. (the reason I’m not going lower than $.02 is because even with $0 marginal cost of generating the electricity, we’ll still need to pay for the infrastructure etc.).” -Rachel
 

People

Adding two new rock stars to the weport distribution list this week. As usual, you’re too humble to brag about yourselves, so I’ll do it for you:
  • Karthik Balakrishnan is a project executive at A^3
  • Erick Miller is founder at Hyperspeed Ventures
Thanks to Aaron, Blake, Ian, Darold, Andy, Ben, Randy, Doug, Joe, Noam, Jude, Phil, Charles, AJ, Tori, Marc, Stonly, Bink, Malay, Thomas, George, Jenn, Rahul, Sam, Sky, Cyrus, Tine, Igor, Kevin, Michael, Rachel, Alexander, Karthik, Wade, Rayyan, and everyone else who helped out and/or sent over words of encouragement this week.
And: does anyone know anyone at SpaceX? A fellow weporter is seeking a marketing job.
Hope everyone had a great weekend!
Electrically,
Jeff
PS: We really hope you’re enjoying these updates. But if at any time you’d like to stop receiving them, please just do so here. No hard feelings — we all understand inbox overload!
 
PPS: Wright song of the week: Coolio ft. L.V – Gangsta’s Paradise

Wright Weekly Weport Apr 23 2017

Dear all,
Welcome to the Wright Weekly Weport for April 23.
Summary
  • Goal of the week: technical focus areas
  • Diving into lithium air batteries
  • Across the wuniverse: seeking contacts at SpaceX
 
Technical Focus Areas
Note: this section was co-written by Aaron and me
We’ve been studying the broad range of obstacles (opportunities?) that need to be overcome before large electric airplanes can fly.
There’s already so much amazing work happening in the electric aviation world (congrats especially to Zunum on their recent funding and Lilium on their successful test flight). We want to make sure we aren’t duplicating efforts that are happening elsewhere.
For the next six months we’re thinking we’d like to focus most of our engineering resources on a single technical field.
Below are a few of the categories we’re considering. In your opinion, which of the following should we concentrate on, and why?
  • A. Propulsion systems. Exploring the boundaries of electric motors and fan design.
  • B. Power Electronics. Efficiently moving 10-15MW from source to motors.
  • C. Batteries. Monitoring and driving the supply chain for >400 wh/kg batteries.
  • D. Airframe design. Exploring optimal electric 150-seater aero design elements.
  • F.  Aircraft Architecture. Finalizing the placement of all components and dimensions.
  • G. Supply Chain. Testing the supply chain through prototyping and validation processes.
  • H. Something else. Did we miss something important?
All ideas welcome, both in terms of what we should focus on and how we should think about the question. Thank you very much in advance!
Diving Into Lithium Air Batteries
At this week’s fantastic Sustainable Aviation Symposium, climate scientist Kyle Van Houtan explained the importance of extremes. “95% of the time the weather is normal,” he explained, “but 5% is a storm. It shapes the dunes at the beach and the water in your basement.”
Along these lines we’re starting to explore the extremes of battery technologies. Lithium air is just about the limit – it has a theoretical energy density that approaches that of gasoline.
Has anyone looked into this field? Would you mind sending over papers / links? Thank you! 
Around the Wuniverse
One of our intrepid weporters is looking to join SpaceX’s marketing department. By chance does anyone know anyone?
People 
Thanks to Bink, Blake, Eli, Aaron, Damon, Stanley, Ian, Jonathan, Ken, Cicc, Abisola, Tarik, Darrell, Sky, Charif, Tori, Damon, Brien, Andy, Ben, Chip, Doug, Joe, Noam, Michael, Sam, Ben, Phil, Zach, Jude, Scott, Mary, Nabil, Sergio, Tivan, Ian, Scott, Vicki, and everyone else who helped out and/or sent over words of encouragement this week.
Congrats to Chip on getting his A&P license!
Hope you had a great weekend.
Electrically,
Jeff
PS: We really hope you’re enjoying these updates. But if at any time you’d like to stop receiving them, please just do so here. No hard feelings — we all understand inbox overload!
 
PPS: Wright song of the week: Annie Bass – Don’t Want

Wright Weekly Weport Apr 16 2017

Dear all,
Welcome to the Wright Weekly Weport for April 16.
We’ve attended lectures by a few dozen grizzled startup founders over the past four months in SF. Here are the lessons they shared:
Warning: tons of aphorisms and generalities ahead. But that doesn’t make the advice any less good! 
Top Three
  • Get a small group of people to love your product rather than hundreds who merely like it
    • How to measure love? Love is detail, profuse enthusiasm – long, detailed letters and reviews
  • Focus the whole company around growing a single metric up and to the right
  • Be like a cockroach; never die
Stay Alive By Being Frugal
Likely the best way to prevent your startup from dying is to drastically reduce your spending. There’s sometimes a belief that spending more will lead to better results – in fact, it’s often small teams that move the world. When WhatsApp sold for $19b, it had 55 employees.
This is really hard; as Steve Blank says, “I’ve never seen a start-up that’s raised $1 million that doesn’t spend $1,000,001.” The inertia will be to increase spending. Advisors will suggest it. They don’t always have the same motivation you have. Dramatically reduce your spending wherever to stay alive.
Relevant quotes:
  • “I generally see two types of companies. One limits their monthly spending to $50,000 or less. I don’t worry about these guys. I think, ‘they have time’. The other spends $100,000 or more each month. These are the ones I worry about.”
  • “Companies with high burn rates die.”
  • “Investors will tell you to make your cash last 18 months. I say, make it last 3 years.”
  • “Start raising your next round when you still have 18 months of runway in the bank. It give you leverage – ‘I might or I might not raise.’ If you always have 12 months of cash in the bank, you’ll stay alive. If you bridge down to nine or six months, you die.”
Write 100 More Emails
One secret to success is just writing more people. If you’re looking for a customer or an employee, a job or an investor, likely the single best thing you can do is find 100 new names for your cold-call list. Most people drop off somewhere or another – they’re busy, they don’t have a budget, they invested in your competitor, they don’t like your idea – so you need to start with an enormous group of prospects in order to eventually find the right one. Relevant quote: “You can’t write just one reporter; you have to write 800 reporters.”
Then, Write One More Email
A corollary to the item above: If you’re in sales mode, make sure to follow up with people. Sure you’ve written the person and they haven’t written back. Write ‘em again. Of course it’s important to give the appropriate time window and be polite – and make sure to send personalized notes rather than generic ones – but don’t assume a “no” is final.
Relevant quotes:
  • “I pitched [Midas-tier VC], and they said no. Then I pitched them again a year later – again no. I pitched them a third time six months after that – no. Then I randomly got invited to pitch them one month later – and this time they said yes.”
  • “It was on my 18th follow up that they said yes.”
Also
  • Launch early, launch often; you need 100 stories about you
  • Try everything, a thousand times
  • Keep setting new and clear goals for the future
  • Distill down your vision to one sentence
  • Create a high-trust environment to speed decision making
  • Manage people by defining the outputs you want achieved, not the way they get there
  • People will remember the way you act. If you can carry through good and bad with integrity, then people will try to help you
  • Sometimes being provocative is the best way to close a sale with an indifferent customer without a budget – talk about the future problem that will come when the industry moves to your solution and they don’t participate
  • Try 10 different methods of pitching / selling / whatever you are trying to do. Figure out what works quickly, and do more of that. Drop what doesn’t work
  • Never believe your own press, either good or bad
  • Make the decision that increases trust with the people important to you
  • It doesn’t get real for a long time; don’t calculate your worth in shares
  • Everyone knows that you should fire quickly. But then you survey people … and 90% say they fired too slowly
  • It’s hard to build a product when you’re not the user and don’t have empathy with the user
  • Taking on unnecessary technology risk is death – go with the easiest path
  • Even the best CEOs have a 50% success rate at knowing which employees will be good at their company
  • The path to the destination should be malleable based on data
  • When defining your company’s culture, create an amazing company *to have come from*
  • The stress never gets easier. You raise a seed round. It’s good for an hour. Then your employee quits, and your “customer” backs out
  • “When a plane is landing it’s never on the perfect glide slope. You’re making little corrections every second. If you can keep all the decisions small, then while you land it looks good from the outside, but really it was a bunch of small decisions.”
  • If in the next three months you’ve watched 10 customer use your product, you’re better than 99% of the startups out there
  • If you aren’t actively selling into existing accounts, you’re losing them
  • You have to make something that’s WAY better than the competition or no one will switch to it
  • Running a startup is like a series of mini games. You need to keep learning new skills and changing your role as your company grows
  • Focus on doing one thing really, really well, rather than adding more features or services
  • Talk to customers about the issues and problems they face in using your product or their current solution. Prioritize solving those – don’t just build every feature your customers ask for
  • Keeping everyone on the same page is really hard. Communicate your vision at every team meeting, and in everything you do. Hire and fire based on it
People
Thanks to George, Whitney, and Tara for reviewing/augmenting the advice above!
And thanks to Sky, Stanley, Amira, Raja, Peter, Tori, Joe, Cal, Andy, Ben, Aaron, Darold, Theresa, David, Ralph, Jenn, Chris, Sarah, Shaun, Sergio, Scott, Daniel, Doug, Katherine, Jeremie, Ian, Brien, Damon, Abigail, Glenn, Amy, DJ, Aaron, Rachel, Fred, Vicki, Barry, Theresa, George, Jon, and everyone else who helped out and/or sent over words of encouragement this week.
Happy Easter!
Electrically,
Jeff
PS: We really hope you’re enjoying these updates. But if at any time you’d like to stop receiving them, please just do so here. No hard feelings — we all understand inbox overload!
 
PPS: Wright song of the week: The Troggs – Love Is All Around

Wright Weekly Weport Apr 9 2017

Dear all,

Welcome to the Wright Weekly Weport for April 9.

Economic Model Redux
Last week we described calculations that shows how electric planes can achieve as much as 50% “fuel” savings over regular planes. You fantastic weporters wrote back with brilliant macroeconomic perspectives. So this week we’re exploring the calculations in more depth.
The four big numbers that go into the calculations are:
  1. Jet fuel price
  2. Electricity price
  3. Battery cycle life
  4. Battery price
Preamble
Before jumping into the numbers, it goes without saying that no one can predict the future with any real precision.
That said, electric vehicles have fundamental cost advantages over fuel ones, and it’s not controversial to say that electric is on an inexorable path to transforming transportation.
To paraphrase Tony Seba:
  • Kodak’s business model was to charge per photo. Every click was money for Kodak.
  • Digital cameras, by contrast, have zero marginal costs. Once a photographer had a digital camera, the incremental cost of each picture drops to zero.
  • Fuel’s business model is like Kodak’s. Every watt is money for the fuel companies.
  • Solar/wind is like a digital camera. Once someone has a solar panel, the incremental cost of each watt drops to zero.

Our planes will enter the market within a decade, but they’ll be in service for 20+ years. Whether the transformation to electric happens tomorrow, or five years from now, or 15, the general trend is probably heading in that direction.

Jet fuel price
Getting into the nitty gritty, the first input is jet fuel. Jet fuel prices are highly volatile. Today airlines pay as little as $1.50 per gallon, but in the past few years they’ve paid as much as $3.47. And predictions for oil vary widely – we’ve seen everything from $25 per barrel up to $40-$70 or even $100.
Here’s a chart comparing gasoline to electricity prices over time (note that gas is much more volatile than electricity):
Further complicating things, even if oil prices decline, jet fuel prices could rise. To (again) paraphrase Tony, jet fuel is in a way a byproduct of gasoline and diesel refineries. As gasoline demand declines worldwide, refineries might have to raise prices on jet fuel to stay alive.

So! No one really knows. Our model assumes $2.50 per gallon. But it could be as high as $3.50 or as low as $1.50.

Electricity price

Electricity price is another doozy. Today, residential electricity in the US costs $0.12 per kwh on average. The EIA thinks electricity prices will increase in the coming decade. We’re assuming it’ll drop to $0.06, or even lower. Here’s why:
First, the EIA is historically wrong about its predictions (link1, link2). Electricity prices tend to decline over time.
Second, as discussed above, solar has zero marginal costs. Some people think this means electricity will get very cheap in the future (link1, link2). And solar panels prices have been on a rapid downward trend:

Third, wholesale generation is already as low as $0.024 per kwh in some places. Wholesale isn’t the same as retail, but our plane won’t be on the market for a decade, and in that time distributed electrical generation could lead to lower retail prices.
Again – no one really knows. Our model assumes $0.06 per kwh. But it could be as high as $0.12 or as low as $0.02.
Battery cycle life
If you search “Tesla battery cycle life” on google you’ll see widely varying results. Some say their batteries last for 200 cycles, and others say they last for 35,000. What’s correct?
The answer is both are correct. Cycle life depends on the way the batteries are used. If they’re discharged from 100% to 0% repeatedly, their cycle life is low. If they’re only used from 80% to 20%, their cycle life is much higher.
This article explains it well: link.
Our batteries generally won’t cycle down to zero, so they’ll last longer. According to the article above, the Tesla batteries last for 15,000 cycles while discharging from 92% to 8%. We’re using 7,000 cycles for our calculations.
Battery price
Tesla is already below $190 per kwh. In all likelihood we’ll have a bunch of battery option in a decade, at various price points and tradeoffs. We settled on $200, but there are a million potential inputs here.
* * *
Finally, here’s a sensitivity analysis that generates different savings / costs using different jet fuel / electricity prices: link.
People
Thank you to Mike, Sophie, Nate, Amira, Rob, Soo, Andy, Ben, Chip, Ian, Eli, Samir, Joe, Peter, Jeremie, Aaron, Phil, Kate, George, Bart, Rich, Stan, Todd, Blake, Fred, Katherine, Adam, Janet, Ben, Sam, Marc, Jamie, Jeanette, Andrew, Ryan, John, Amy, Dan, Tori, Tarik, and everyone else who helped out and/or sent over words of encouragement.
Hope you had a great weekend.
Electrically,
Jeff
PS: We really hope you’re enjoying these updates. But if at any time you’d like to stop receiving them, please just do so here. No hard feelings — we all understand inbox overload!
PPS: Wright song of the week: C+C Music Factory – Everybody Dance Now

Wright Weekly Weport Apr 2 2017

Dear all,
Welcome to the Wright Weekly Weport for April 2.
Economic Argument for Commercial Electric Planes
We wanted to lay out the economic argument for the Wright One (a.k.a. our electric 150 seater). The environmental argument is clear, but in order for the plane to succeed, it has to be “10x better” than the competition. In the airline industry, cost is the metric that matters. Our plane has to be so much cheaper that it’s a no-brainer.
For context, Boeing built the 787 to achieve 20% fuel savings over the 767. Fuel is such an expensive component of flying that 20% was considered sufficient to justify the development costs of a new plane.
In our case, the Wright One has the potential to achieve fuel savings of as much as 50%.
Here’s a stylized example:
Fuel plane:
  • A 737 burns 1,000 gallons of fuel for a 500 mile flight. For a 300 mile flight, let’s say it’s 600 GPH.
  • Jet fuel costs vary widely, but let’s say the price is $2.50 per gallon, or halfway between today’s super cheap prices and the higher prices from 2012.
  • This means the fuel cost on a 300 mile flight is 600 x $2.50 = $1,500.
Electric plane:
  • Our plane needs ~7.5 MWh (7,500 kwh) of energy for a 300 mile flight, and it has 12 MWh (12,000 kwh) of batteries on board including FAA reserves.
  • The two main costs are battery amortization and electricity.
  • Battery amortization:
    • Let’s say the batteries cost $200 per kwh. And let’s say the batteries last for 7,000 cycles (1). This means the battery cost per flight is 12,000 x $200 / 7,000 = $343.
  • Electricity:
    • Let’s say electricity is $0.06 per kwh. This means 7,500 x $0.06 = $450.
  • $343 + $450 = $793, or ~1/2 the cost of jet fuel.
It goes without saying that there’s lots of uncertainty in these numbers. Maybe jet fuel will get cheaper. Maybe electricity will never hit 6 cents per kwh. Maybe batteries won’t achieve 7,000 cycles. Maybe new fuel planes will be much more efficient than old ones. No one really knows for sure.
But there’s room for optimism:
Solar prices are on a relentless downward trend:
 
Batteries prices are also trending downwards:
Plus:
  • This study shows electric buses have nearly double the profit of fuel buses.
  • At least one optimist thinks electricity could be *free* in the future.
  • And this doesn’t even cover the fact that electric motors cost less to maintain than fuel engines, which further lowers operational costs.
So even if these numbers don’t work out exactly – maybe the fuel savings aren’t 50% but 40% or 30% – even that’s a huge deal in the aviation world.
If you’d like to read more about this line of thinking, check out Tony Seba’s Clean Disruption. (I’m biased because Tony is a friend and investor, but this is the book that inspired Wright.)
Note: the inspiration for this section is Blake from Boom. Blake is the classic entrepreneur-advisor discussed here. He’s a total phenom – he just closed Boom’s Series A – and still he managed to find time to spend an hour on the phone with me last weekend. Thanks Blake!
 
(1) We think we can achieve 7,000 cycles because our plane will have 12 MWh of energy onboard; the extra portion is for FAA reserves. This means we won’t have to cycle it below 20% in most cases, which increases battery life substantially.
Needless to say, would love your feedback! Thank you in advance!
 
People
Wanted to send out special thanks to a handful people who have been absolute rock stars over the past few weeks. Ian, Andy, Ben, Joe, Aaron, Chip, Tivan, Malay, Gustaf, Sam, Daniel, Fred, Katherine, Bennett, Mady, Mom, Dad, Slava, Noam, Mary, Blake, Hart, Abisola, Darold, George, Ken, DJ, Tori, Ralph, Grandma, Jenn, Nate, Sarah, Amira, David, Kate, Sophie, Tracy, Bruce, Jacque, Mrod, Abigail, Vicki, Dan, Aaron, Jim, Jonathan, Joris, Peter, and many many others. Thank you a million times!
Hope you had a great weekend.
Electrically,
Jeff
PS: We really hope you’re enjoying these updates. But if at any time you’d like to stop receiving them, please just do so here. No hard feelings — we all understand inbox overload!
PPS: Wright song of the week: Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody