Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Field Of Electric Dreams
If you fund it, they will come—and change the world
Beyond Aviation (formerly Bye Energy), partnering with Cessna, began taxi tests last July of its electric C-172. The "e-Skylane" will use a 168 hp all-electric or hybrid pro-pulsion system, which could retrofit the huge existing fleet. First flight date is reportedly imminent.
Sikorsky's Firefly electric helicopter project was trumped by a solo project: Pascal Chretien of France built and successfully hovered an ultralight e-chopper, taking the design to flying prototype in just 12 months! He's the first in history to fly an electric helicopter.
Another French pioneer, Hugues Duval, set a world speed record for electric aircraft in his miniscule twin engine Cri-Cri, christened "E-Cristaline." His speed: 175 mph! Endurance? That's another story, but still, wow!
And then there's Flynano, another joined-wing...uh...flying jetski? The small single seater is already in high-speed water-taxi testing. The first version will be gas powered, with an electric version to come afterward.
Everybody's getting into the act. Luxembourg Special Aerotechnics announced first flights of its model MC30E Firefly electric airplane, sporting an electric propulsion system from Electravia, which has electric aircraft projects of its own. The converted kit plane, from the original designer of the Cri-Cri, uses a 26-hp E-Motor and 4.7 kWh Kokam battery pack. Initial flights brought 1,181 fpm of climb and 119-knot level cruise.
Back on the home front, Dale Kramer, designer of a beloved '80s ultralight, the elegant, butterfly-light Lazair, converted it to electric power with 90% of the components coming directly from the radio-controlled modeling world, slapped it all on a monofloat, and flew it off a lake! He's getting 75-minute flights out of his 100-pound battery pack.
Growing The Grid
Before long, electric infrastructure will require the same push that electric airframe and propulsion design is getting now. Pipistrel sells a Solar Trailer to go with its Taurus Electro G2. And PC Aero's Calin Gologan updated me on the Electra line—which also includes a charging trailer.
"We are installing newer, lighter batteries on the One," he said, "with enough energy density for a 300-mile flight. Our goal is to get German certification and produce the Electra One in 2012."
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