Meet Maxwell, NASA’s zero-emission 14-motor electric airplane

Sustainability Problem: 

Aviation accounts for 12 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions annually


The new X-57 (affectionately called Maxwell) will be the first aircraft of its kind that utilizes electric motors in lieu of traditional technology that produced substantial amounts of carbon dioxide emissions

  • X-57, “Maxwell,” is the experimental aircraft by the US Airforce and NASA researchers
  • “Maxwell” was chosen to honor James Clerk Maxwell, the 19th century Scottish physicist who did groundbreaking work in electromagnetism
  • 12 electric motors on the wing’s leading edge for take offs and landings
  • One larger motor on each wing tip for use while at cruise altitude
  • NASA plans to use Maxwell to validate the idea that distributing electric power across a number of motors integrated with an aircraft will result in higher energy efficiency
  • The plane is believed to be able to travel at a cruising speed of around 175 miles per hour
  • A big deal for the future of aviation

Organizational Stakeholders

  • US Airforce
  • NASA
  • Aviation Industry
  • Customers


  • Validate technology
  • Scale technology to meet commercial specs
  • Educate consumers
  • Partner with airlines
  • Build fleet & deploy

2 thoughts on “Meet Maxwell, NASA’s zero-emission 14-motor electric airplane

  1. Thanks for sharing this technology!
    Reducing carbon emissions for planes will be a significant improvement in aviation. For it to create a big impact, this technology would need to be made accessible and affordable to all. I would love to see that happen soon. It will certainly make traveling all the more fun (and guilt-free).

    UNI: mb4033


  2. Absolutely, this would make a huge difference to the impact of travel! Joby Aviation is also developing a small (two-person) aircraft powered by sixteen electric motors – it will be interesting to see who else enters the market as the technology develops.


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