NASA Is Developing an Electric-Powered X-Plane Nicknamed "Maxwell"

NASA

NASA does a lot more than space exploration. The "aeronautics" part of its acronym also includes researching and developing aircraft that fly a little closer to the ground. That's why NASA is working on a 14-motor electric, energy-efficient plane. 

The plane is officially called X-57, but it's nicknamed "Maxwell" after physicist James Clerk Maxwell. It's designed to reach a speed of 175 mph and use 5 times less energy than a private plane cruising at that speed. 

"Energy efficiency at cruise altitude using X-57 technology could benefit travelers by reducing flight times, fuel usage, as well as reducing overall operational costs for small aircraft by as much as 40%," according to NASA.

The coolest part: It will also run purely on battery power, so Maxwell won't produce any carbon emissions.

Artist's illustration of Maxwell.Source: NASA
Artist's illustration of Maxwell.  NASA

The plane is designed with 12 motors for takeoff and two larger motors on its wing tips that will propel the plane while it's at cruising altitude. 

Maxwell is part of a whole fleet of futuristic X-planes NASA hopes to develop as part of its New Aviation Horizons initiative. The 10-year program will involve research and development of more energy-efficient planes.

X-planes have a long history in the US. The first one, X-1, was the first aircraft to break the sound barrier in 1947.

"Dozens of X-planes of all shapes, sizes and purposes have since followed — all of them contributing to our stature as the world's leader in aviation and space technology," Jaiwon Shin, associate administrator for NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, said in a statement. "Planes like the X-57, and the others to come, will help us maintain that role."