Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, September 21, 2010

ElectriFly 2010

Electric flight is no longer an “if” but a “when”

Here’s a new aviation acronym: BBR (before battery replacement). It may very well replace TBO (time between overhaul)! That number for the E430 is now 3,000 hours, or $3/hour of electricity cost from an expected three to four hours of recharge time, with total operating costs of $25-$30 hour. Meanwhile, Yuneec’s proprietary electric engine needs no oil, and the “overhaul” consists of replacing two bearings every few thousand hours or so—a one-hour job!

Yuneec’s Managing Director Clive Coote expects to deliver the first 100 E430 two-seaters, with flight endurance of two hours, for $89,995. And lest anyone accuse Yuneec of blue-sky hyperbole, it’s backing its play by augmenting its already massive factory floor space from 250,000 to 470,000 square feet. This isn’t a company to take lightly.

Dreaming Of Electric Sheep
There are enough electric projects to make your head spin like an electric top.

Longtime homebuilt-kit maker Sonex also won a LEAP prize for best electrical aircraft systems/component technology. After years in development, the company is about to fly its Waiex electric airplane. Waiex has a brushless 270-volt DC cobalt motor drawing on 800 LiPo (lithium polymer) batteries linked together. Total battery weight: 300 pounds.

Helicopter giant Sikorsky unveiled its Project Firefly single-seat eggbeater, a re-engineered S-300C that’s due for first flight this fall. Initial expectations include 15-minute flights, with three-hour durations as the goal. Firefly will have a 190 hp-equivalent electric motor.

Meanwhile, Elektra One from PC-Aero represents the opening salvo of another manufacturer’s long-term intent to market an entire family of electric-powered light aircraft—with flight durations of three hours. First seen at Germany’s Aero show last spring, the single-seater is the vanguard of two- and four-seat electric models.

Not to be left behind, Cessna Aircraft and Bye Energy recently announced an electric Cessna 172! The e-Skyhawk would weigh around 1,300 pounds, be powered by a 168 hp motor and controlled by a Vertical Power monitoring system. Cessna and Bye will jointly develop the project, which could lead to retrofits for the C-172 fleet—the most-produced GA airplane ever at 43,000—and a sizable potential market. Two powerplants are in R&D: all-electric and diesel/electric hybrid. A proof-of-concept version could fly by year’s end.


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