What's Up With Elon Musk's Electric Plane?

It's a cool idea, but one that doesn't look to be happening any time soon. From him, anyway.

by Kastalia Medrano
European Space Agency

During a Q&A session at the awards ceremony for a Hyperloop competition at the end of January, CEO of many things Elon Musk took a question about his “next great idea.” That idea turned out to be the design for an electric aircraft, about which the internet has spent the past few months speculating. Just the fact that he’s had, like, musings about the general concept has spawned its own Wikipedia page.

Here’s what we know:

1. He’s been thinking about this for at least seven years

The electric plane idea has popped up a few times over the years. Musk declared his desire for a “supersonic electric plane” as far back as 2009, but was regrettably just occupied with other things. Anyone who’s followed his exhaustive, multi-hyphenated tech career will understand this and forgive him. The man’s been busy.

2. It will take off and land vertically

Skip to the 18-minute mark unless you’re super curious about Hyperloop:

“Well I have been thinking about the vertical takeoff and landing electric jet a bit more,” Musk said during the Hyperloop Q&A. “I mean, I think I have something that might close. I’m quite tempted to do something about it.” Then people cheered thunderously.

3. No physical design exists yet — as far as we know

At the end of May, Musk quipped to shareholders, “electric airplanes. Still dying to do that,” which to us at least sounds like there hasn’t been much tangible progress since he brought it up at the Hyperloop awards. Nor has he tweeted any evidence of physical construction. Still, Musk is a surprising guy, and it’s impossible to say for sure what he is or isn’t prioritizing at any given moment.

4. He has competition

Last week, German engineers completed their own vertical-takeoff electric plane. The aircraft, called the “Lilium Jet,” was designed at the Technical University of Munich and can take off and land from pretty much any flat surface.

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