Electric airplane

No, that’s not the name of a rock band. But there is a real twin fuselage motor glider featuring a 145 kW electric motor, lithium-ion batteries, and retractable landing gear.

From NASA:

Pipistrel USA, Taurus G4 aircraft is seen as it participates in the miles per gallon flight.
Pipistrel-USA, Taurus G4 aircraft is seen as it participates in the miles per gallon flight. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
CAFE Foundation Hanger Boss Mike Fenn directs the eGenius aircraft to the start of the speed competition during the 2011 Green Flight Challenge.
CAFE Foundation Hanger Boss Mike Fenn directs the eGenius aircraft to the start of the speed competition during the 2011 Green Flight Challenge. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
› View all large images in Flickr

› Green Flight Challenge News NASA has awarded the largest prize in aviation history, created to inspire the development of more fuel-efficient aircraft and spark the start of a new electric airplane industry. The technologies demonstrated by the CAFE Green Flight Challenge, sponsored by Google, competitors may end up in general aviation aircraft, spawning new jobs and new industries for the 21st century.

The first place prize of $1.35 million was awarded to team Pipistrel-USA.com of State College, Pa. The second place prize of $120,000 went to team eGenius, of Ramona, Calif.

Fourteen teams originally registered for the competition. Three teams successfully met all requirements and competed in the skies over the Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport in Santa Rosa, Calif. The competition was managed by the Comparative Aircraft Flight Efficiency (CAFE) Foundation under an agreement with NASA.

“NASA congratulates Pipistrel-USA.com for proving that ultra-efficient aviation is within our grasp,” said Joe Parrish, NASA’s acting chief technologist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Today we’ve shown that electric aircraft have moved beyond science fiction and are now in the realm of practice.”

The winning aircraft had to fly 200 miles in less than two hours and use less than one gallon of fuel per occupant, or the equivalent in electricity. The first and second place teams, which were both electric-powered, achieved twice the fuel efficiency requirement of the competition, meaning they flew 200 miles using just over a half-gallon of fuel equivalent per passenger.

“Two years ago the thought of flying 200 miles at 100 mph in an electric aircraft was pure science fiction,” said Jack W. Langelaan, team leader of Team Pipistrel-USA.com. “Now, we are all looking forward to the future of electric aviation.”

This week’s competition marks the culmination of more than two years of aircraft design, development and testing for the teams. It represents the dawn of a new era in efficient flight and is the first time that full-scale electric aircraft have performed in competition. Collectively, the competing teams invested more than $4 million in pursuit of the challenge prize purse.

“I’m proud that Pipistrel won, they’ve been a leader in getting these things into production, and the team really deserves it, and worked hard to win this prize,” said Eric Raymond, team leader of eGenius.

NASA uses prize competitions to increase the number and diversity of the individuals, organizations and teams that are addressing a particular problem or challenge. Prize competitions stimulate private sector investment that is many times greater than the cash value of the prize and further NASA’s mission by attracting interest and attention to a defined technical objective. This prize competition is part of the NASA Centennial Challenges program, part of the Space Technology Program, managed by the NASA Office of the Chief Technologist.

For more information about the CAFE Foundation’s Green Flight Challenge, sponsored by Google, visit:
http://www.cafefoundation.org

For high resolution photos of the challenge, visit:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/nasahqphoto

For more information about NASA’s Office of the Chief Technologist and the Centennial Challenges program, visit:
http://www.nasa.gov/oct

NASA Awards Historic Green Aviation Prize
10.03.11

Pipistrel USA, Taurus G4 aircraft is seen as it participates in the miles per gallon flight. Pipistrel-USA, Taurus G4 aircraft is seen as it participates in the miles per gallon flight. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
CAFE Foundation Hanger Boss Mike Fenn directs the eGenius aircraft to the start of the speed competition during the 2011 Green Flight Challenge. CAFE Foundation Hanger Boss Mike Fenn directs the eGenius aircraft to the start of the speed competition during the 2011 Green Flight Challenge. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
› View all large images in Flickr
› Green Flight Challenge News
NASA has awarded the largest prize in aviation history, created to inspire the development of more fuel-efficient aircraft and spark the start of a new electric airplane industry. The technologies demonstrated by the CAFE Green Flight Challenge, sponsored by Google, competitors may end up in general aviation aircraft, spawning new jobs and new industries for the 21st century.

The first place prize of $1.35 million was awarded to team Pipistrel-USA.com of State College, Pa. The second place prize of $120,000 went to team eGenius, of Ramona, Calif.

Fourteen teams originally registered for the competition. Three teams successfully met all requirements and competed in the skies over the Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport in Santa Rosa, Calif. The competition was managed by the Comparative Aircraft Flight Efficiency (CAFE) Foundation under an agreement with NASA.

“NASA congratulates Pipistrel-USA.com for proving that ultra-efficient aviation is within our grasp,” said Joe Parrish, NASA’s acting chief technologist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Today we’ve shown that electric aircraft have moved beyond science fiction and are now in the realm of practice.”

The winning aircraft had to fly 200 miles in less than two hours and use less than one gallon of fuel per occupant, or the equivalent in electricity. The first and second place teams, which were both electric-powered, achieved twice the fuel efficiency requirement of the competition, meaning they flew 200 miles using just over a half-gallon of fuel equivalent per passenger.

“Two years ago the thought of flying 200 miles at 100 mph in an electric aircraft was pure science fiction,” said Jack W. Langelaan, team leader of Team Pipistrel-USA.com. “Now, we are all looking forward to the future of electric aviation.”

This week’s competition marks the culmination of more than two years of aircraft design, development and testing for the teams. It represents the dawn of a new era in efficient flight and is the first time that full-scale electric aircraft have performed in competition. Collectively, the competing teams invested more than $4 million in pursuit of the challenge prize purse.

“I’m proud that Pipistrel won, they’ve been a leader in getting these things into production, and the team really deserves it, and worked hard to win this prize,” said Eric Raymond, team leader of eGenius.

NASA uses prize competitions to increase the number and diversity of the individuals, organizations and teams that are addressing a particular problem or challenge. Prize competitions stimulate private sector investment that is many times greater than the cash value of the prize and further NASA’s mission by attracting interest and attention to a defined technical objective. This prize competition is part of the NASA Centennial Challenges program, part of the Space Technology Program, managed by the NASA Office of the Chief Technologist.

For more information about the CAFE Foundation’s Green Flight Challenge, sponsored by Google, visit:

http://www.cafefoundation.org

For high resolution photos of the challenge, visit:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/nasahqphoto

For more information about NASA’s Office of the Chief Technologist and the Centennial Challenges program, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/oct

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63 Responses to Electric airplane

  1. Mike Bromley the Canucklehead says:

    Oops, double post. Half a gallon per passenger? Is there someone who can quickly calculate if that is possible? Factoring in drag, lift, inertia…that just seems intuitively unachievable…especially at 100 mph, where the drag would be considerable. If you ask me, there’s something very wrong here.

  2. ew_3 says:

    “NASA uses prize competitions to increase the number and diversity of the individuals”

    Wonder what they mean by diversity.

  3. gianmarco says:

    “Today we’ve shown that electric aircraft have moved beyond science fiction and are now in the realm of practice.”

    no they are not. electric airplanes are extremely expensive and unpractical, more than electric cars, and remain expensive toys for rich boys who want to play scientist or win some meaningless prize.
    there is nothing expecial about these airplanes, they all use old, proven technology that exist since decades, and just is too expensive and too unpractical, with no real world application.

  4. oMan says:

    Exciting news on the technology. Discouraging news on the political correctness of NASA’s prize criteria (“diversity”). If this remains feel-good rhetoric, it’s bad enough. If it gets baked into formal requirements for team membership, it’s fatal. But let’s hope that NASA will –in the best sense of the phrase– “keep [its] eyes on the prize.”

  5. Streetcred says:

    Begs a little investigation to see who is getting a pay-off.

    Glider enthusiasts will probably know more about this but I’m sure that there have been electric ‘gliders’ for many years already.

  6. DocWat says:

    Calculating: 1hp =745 watts, 145kw = 194 hp, 145kw X 2hr =290kwh 1gal gasoline=36.6kwh
    My guess is someone left a decimal out of the engine power rating. two 195hp engines should drag most regular airplanes along at something like 200mph.

  7. @Mike: These are basically motorized gliders, which means that once airborne they’re probably getting significant lift from thermals and such. Unpowered gliders can easily do 5 times that distance at those speeds without using any more energy than was required to get them in the air, so I have no doubt about the number achieved in this competition. Now, the real money question is what could these planes do without help from Ma Nature, and whether this contest really achieved anything.

  8. DocWat says:

    Correction: Piper twin: 15.5gph, 2X190hp, 165knts = 189mph. I still think someone left a decimal out of the engine power.

  9. John Marshall says:

    OK now power an Airbus 380 the same way, with full 700 passenger compliment plus luggage, for a trip from London to JFK. When you achieve that we can say that the dream of ultra efficient air travel has arrived. Until then stop making statements that cannot be sustained.

    This story could be under the Friday Funny page Anthony.

  10. nikki says:

    It would be nice to point out, that Pipistrel-USA.com is dauther firm of Pipistrel from Ajdovščina Slovenia http://www.pipistrel.si/ . And that the prize is personel succses of Ivo Boscarol.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pipistrel
    BTW, there in Ajdovščina lives/blows terible wind bora (burja) but wine and food is very good.
    http://sl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burja
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bora_%28wind%29

  11. DocWat says:

    Google Colomban Cri-cri, Wikipedia.: twin 11kw engines, 105mph, designed 1970′s. these frenchmen missed out on a $1.5 million award.

  12. tty says:

    “Half a gallon per passenger? Is there someone who can quickly calculate if that is possible?”

    The key is in “…or the equivalent in electricity”. If you calculate the total chemical energy in the fuel (plus the oxidant (oxygen)) and the convert it to the equivalent in electrical power you approximately treble the available energy. Electrical engines are almost 100% efficient.
    Never mind that it took at least four times as much chemical energy to generate that electricity, transmit it and cram it into the battery.

  13. DocWat says:

    You guys (or the NASA press guys) should consider an editor: Ryan space plane got $10 million X-Prize.

    Sorry about the disjointed comments… one track mind.

  14. Brian Johnson uk says:

    Any electric device using sufficient power to win speed/economy prizes etc need powerful batteries and unless the Green image is to be promoted all these devices should not use fossil fuel generated electricity! Only wind and solar power should be allowed.

    The idea that electric powered aircraft will spawn many jobs is pure smoke and mirrors. Any cold weather will limit their range, as in electric cars [another politico science green scam]

    Interesting technically and for short journeys they would be fun but to be frank they are a curiosity and nothing much more. Until someone invents lightweight compact huge capacity batteries [that won't catch fire/work in cold weather] it will cost a lot of taxpayers money in subsidies and like Solyndra has proved how unGreen most Warmist green projects are I wish the electric airplane industry good luck but they won’t get one penny from me by choice.

  15. H.R. says:

    ew_3 says:
    October 4, 2011 at 12:33 am
    “NASA uses prize competitions to increase the number and diversity of the individuals”

    Wonder what they mean by diversity.
    ======================================================
    If NASA can tempt the space aliens to compete… ;o)

    Perhaps you get one big honkin’ tow jet at a regional hub to pull up a train of 10-20 electric ‘gliders’ and have them all peel off and go to their respective destinations. Until dilithium crystals come on line, it may be our next move after jet fuel.

  16. IIRC, an Airbus A380 uses about 2 litres/100km per passenger on long-haul flights.

    I couldn’t find the GFC rules easily… is takeoff counted in the energy consumption? Maybe I misunderstaood what “powered glider” means, but don’t they usually get towed to altitude?

  17. Bloke down the pub says:

    Mike Bromley the Canucklehead says:
    October 4, 2011 at 12:32 am
    Oops, double post. Half a gallon per passenger? Is there someone who can quickly calculate if that is possible? Factoring in drag, lift, inertia…that just seems intuitively unachievable…especially at 100 mph, where the drag would be considerable. If you ask me, there’s something very wrong here.

    I wonder how much of a tail wind they had.

  18. Philip Bradley says:

    I gallon aviation fuel equivalent to about 36 kilowatthours of electricity.

    It must be pretty close to being able to put solar panels on it and it could fly all day on solar.

  19. View from the Solent says:

    “……to increase the number and diversity of the individuals”

    How does an individual become diverse? Was nobody looking, and the individual’s probability wave became spread?

  20. richard verney says:

    Without a major breakthrough in battery design, the payload weight of batteries will always make battery powered aircraft non commercially viable.

  21. R Barker says:

    I designed an electric airplane once but could not find a long enough extension cord. ;<)

    Energy density is the problem with storage batteries, or primary batteries, for that matter. When fuel cell technology matures, practical ranges and speeds might be schieved. But economic considerations determine what might be truly practical as the technology matures.

  22. ROM says:

    Regretfully this whole post and NASA’s slant on it is being made to sound as if the Taurus Electro G4 aircraft is American and that America is first with electrically powered aircraft.

    The “Pipstrel” company is a Slovenian company and produces a range of high performance ultra light piston powered aircraft using glider construction technology to achieve very high strength loadings, light weight and exceptional performance. They also produce the dual seat electrically powered, self launching gliders such as the Taurus 2 seat glider of which the G4 uses the major components such as fuselage and wings. They also produce the single seat, ultra light class glider, the “Apis / Bee”. Both gliders have glide ratios above 40 to 1.

    PIPISTREL d.o.o. Ajdovščina
    GORIŠKA CESTA 50a
    SI-5270 AJDOVŠČINA
    SLOVENIA
    Slovenia Pipstrel site ; http://www.pipistrel.si/

    From the EAA site; http://www.eaa.org/news/2011/2011-08-13_pipistrelFF.asp
    Pipistrel, founded by CEO Ivo Boscarol, has been producing Light aircraft for 20 years in Slovenia, with more than 1,000 completed overall.
    American / Australian agents site; http://www.mcp.com.au/sinus/index.html

    The difference in the current WUWT / NASA post is that with the American modified twin fuselage, a very good load of very high tech, high energy density batteries can be carried enabling the range and the performance that was achieved by the Taurus Electro G4.

    But there are other very high performance electrically launched sail planes like the “Antares 20E ; 20 meter electric self launching, very high performance sail plane.
    http://www.lange-aviation.com/htm/english/products/antares_20e/antares_20E.html
    And a view of their fuel celled aircraft under development on the site as well..

    And then there is also the Italian built “Alisport Silent” electric self launching sail plane
    [ http://www.alisport.com/eu/eng/silent_b.htm ] plus a number of other European sail plane designers and manufacturers pushing ahead with new electric launch sail plane designs. Further advanced designs are underway on long range electrically powered aircraft using the very high performance characteristics of glider design as their design base to achieve the efficiencies of flight that will be necessary for electrically powered aircraft to operate on a practical basis..

    And glider pilots do smile quietly at the amount of propaganda from Boeing on their “pioneering” use of FRP [ Fibre Reinforced Plastics. ] in the 737 Dreamliner.
    The first fully FRP aircraft to fly was the the Akaflieg Stuttgart FS-24 Phönix which was a glider designed and built in Germany starting from 1951. [ Wiki ]
    It’s first flight was on the 27 November 1957.
    By 1970 the world’s production of gliders were all being manufactured in FRP except in the USA..
    http://www.acmanet.org/cm/1006/feature_j1006.cfm

    Some of the major fatigue work on aircraft FRP structures was done some years ago here in RMIT in Melbourne Australia. We had RMIT’s heavily instrumented two seat gust and aerodynamic loads data sampling glider operating from our local airstrip for some time as the researchers developed the aerodynamic gust and loading profiles for their FRP fatigue test rig.

    They ran that fatigue test glider which included major repairs to the spar structure in one wing for some 30,000 hours without any fatigue problems and then somebody accidently / carelessly left the infrared heating test lights on over the weekend on just the one wing.
    Disaster! The wing lost partial strength and deformed under the sustained heat of the infrared lamps..
    The European FRP glider designers were absolutely delighted. Now they knew exactly how much heat and energy were the limiting factors before FRP structures of this type started to suffer loss of structural strength.

  23. OzJuggler says:

    Scale it up to 150 passengers and then I’ll believe it.
    Until then, buying shares in airlines at the end of the oil era is a bad idea.

  24. Barry Sheridan says:

    While I have not explored to see if costs for these experimental aircraft are available, they are almost certainly are and will remain very expensive. Practical lightweight battery technology capable of storing the necessary usable power remain limited to the type frequently used in in modern radio controlled helicopters (Lithium-Polymer or A123). These are very pricey.
    A very interesting article, although it is difficult to believe that there is anything here that will realistically take aviation into the nirvana of a green future. Though this does not mean we should not keep exploring and trying.

  25. Mike McMillan says:

    Fusion electric power will make these planes practical.

  26. kim;) says:

    I wonder how they will do in an electrical storm….OR a three hour holding pattern?

  27. theBuckWheat says:

    A coal-powered airplane. Who wouldda thunk it?

  28. Ron Albertson says:

    Er, that would be taxpayer money NASA is lavishing about as prize money for a contest that many here are calling irrelevant, correct?

  29. ShrNfr says:

    It will make for a good extend fly surveillance drone with missiles attached if you put some solar panels on it. Somehow, I do not see it replacing the 747 any time soon.

  30. Curiousgeorge says:

    Electric RC planes (small, weigh about 20 lbs) have been used by the military for gathering combat intel for several years and they are useful for that purpose. But some things just don’t scale up well, and this is one of them.

    Among other things, the craft would be limited to a 10k foot ceiling, and perfect weather (pressurization & icing would be problems, as would any significant head wind, etc. ). As has been said, this is only a toy, not even suitable for General Aviation, let alone commercial.

  31. Dave Springer says:

    Mike Bromley the Canucklehead says:
    October 4, 2011 at 12:32 am

    “Oops, double post. Half a gallon per passenger? Is there someone who can quickly calculate if that is possible? Factoring in drag, lift, inertia…that just seems intuitively unachievable…especially at 100 mph, where the drag would be considerable. If you ask me, there’s something very wrong here.”

    Nothing at all wrong. A Boeing 747-400 gets close to 100 passenger/miles/gallon with a range of thousands of miles and a cruise speed approaching 600 miles per hour (Mach 0.85). So they were basically asking for a bit better than twice the fuel economy of a jumbo jet.

  32. G. Karst says:

    Looks like a “way cool” toy for rich hobbyists. Wish I had one for the farm, assuming lift off can be achieved under a mile, with some remaining power capacity! GK

  33. higley7 says:

    I love the “diversity” aspect, as it it makes it better. “Let’s have a token on the team! It’ll make us look better even though he knows piddle about planes!” Being under NASA and their new directive to reach out to the ever tech-hungry Muslim world, I wonder if they insisted on an outreach program to Muslims, some of whom love to try to get on planes packing extra forms of energy.

    The half gallon per passenger surely does not count the inefficiency and cost of producing the power used to charge the batteries. Add in the expense of the high tech materials in the plane and the per passenger cost goes way up. And then there’s the battery longevity. I’m sure the batteries are not cheap and their replacement life not very long. I wonder at what temperature the batteries operate.

    In the same way they talk about wind turbines being so cheap to run, but the cost of manufacture, the extensive infrastructure, and limited lifetime are usually not properly included.

    I’ll bet the plane was comfy, being a stripped down version of a stripped down plane built on a starvation diet.

  34. DaveF says:

    Bernd Felsche 2:36:
    “……aren’t they usually towed to altitude?”
    Usually, yes, but you can get a glider that has a small engine and propeller that pops up out of the fuselage behind the pilot and sinks back into it when you reach altitude and you start gliding. Very useful, but I believe you have to have the full private pilot’s license to fly it.

  35. Pamela Gray says:

    This focus on electricity replacing fossil fuels is such an interesting exercise in spin.

  36. ferd berple says:

    “NASA uses prize competitions to increase the number and diversity of the individuals”

    Now if they would only do that for climate models. Award prizes not based on Peer Review, but on actual, real world future performance.

    Look at the results when governments give prizes for ACTUAL winners, rather than trying to pick the winners ahead of time.

    Instead, we have GISS/NASA compiling the temperature records, then Gavin forecasts with their models, then Hansen adjusts the GISS results after the fact, which surprise surprise increases the accuracy of the models.

    GISS/NASA is a rigged game. They control the readings, the model and the adjustments. Where are the experimental controls to ensure objectivity?

  37. DD More says:

    Just wait until the Tort Lawyers get hold of any of these advances. As noted in this Tort Reform law article.

    Then there was the pilot smart enough to fly a plane, but not smart enough to keep from dying from terminal dumbness. He flew his small Cessna up a mountain box canyon till the terrain was rising faster than the Cessna could climb.
    In a futile attempt to turn inside the narrowing canyon, his plane struck a canyon wall and crashed on a gravel bar beside the river, killing the erring pilot. His widow’s lawyer got a jury to award millions, on the flimsy grounds that if Cessna had built a “crash-worthy” cabin, the pilot could have survived. The jury’s exorbitant award helped force Cessna to abandon the manufacture of small general aviation aircraft.

    http://www.sagecommentary.com/pages/SV022304.html

  38. Sparks says:

    The next big leap in aviation will be in the development of ‘zeppelin’ type blimps, welcome to the 1920s lol, That being said I have always thought that blimps were a great idea even if it was only for the haulage of goods, it’s probably not as practical for human passengers, but they can be very useful depending on the weather and some journeys without time constraints.

    The ‘Electric airplane’ idea is another pipe-dream and a waste of money, simply put the numbers do not add up to any over all net savings, imagine owning a fleet of 10 commercial Electric passenger airplanes, the charge time for such a battery even if it existed could be 12+ hours between flights, where would the charge come from? an especially built expensive solar or wind power plant? what if there was no sun or wind? do the planes get their charge from an especially built backup generator? and what would the cost and life of such a battery be? how many flights before a battery needs to be replaced? After all the investment and finance that would go into setting up a fleet of commercial Electric passenger airplanes and factoring in a team of maintenance engineers and the cabin crew, How on earth could a flight on one of these planes be competitive? Do we subsidize the price of flights and raise taxes to make them appear cheaper?

    “Today we’ve shown that electric aircraft have moved beyond science fiction and are now in the realm of practice.”

    Yes they may work in practice, but a cheap commercial flight on an Electric passenger airplane is still firmly in the realm of science fiction.

  39. Robert L says:

    For those disputing figures, or thinking there was something else required here are basic calcs:

    200 passenger miles per gallon equalled 33.7kWh electrical power per per passenger = 121MJ/passenger (note that organisers credited electrical entrants with full energy available in a gallon of fuel without consideration of inefficiencies of conversion in an IC engine, this really flatters the electric aircraft). Winners actually achieved about 400mpg per passenger – ie half 33.7kWh, but had four passengers so about 121*4/2=240MJ total, needed. Also needed to carry a 30 minute reserve so about 300MJ total or about 85kWh of battery storage total. Best Lithium batteries weigh about 6kg/kWh with that storage and so would weigh about 500kg. Also need to carry passengers of 200lb each so another 4×90 =360kg of passengers, plane without battery and with motor probably weighed about 400kg, so call it 1260kg all up (about half a ton).

    Assuming about 80% efficiency for combined prop and motor that 240MJ could lift 1260kg about (240000000/9.81/1260*.8) = 15500m

    200mile course = 320000m. 320000/15500 = 20.6:1 glide slope achieved by the winner – not that the motor was off but the calculation is the same. 20.6:1 is frankly very low (about the same as best commercial jets). Gliders typically achieve 40-50:1 and up to 72:1 in case of open class Eta glider, though normally this is at about 50mph not 100mph. They paid the price of greater drag for dual fueselage design – this is a cute idea used to leverage pre-existing wing and cockpit parts that they had and allow then to distribute weight across wing more easily, but is not optimal.

    Cruising power: Gliding sink rate at 20.5:1 glide angle and 100mph (45m/s) is about 45/20.1=2.2m/s, with 80% prop+motor combined efficiency and 1260kg that only needs 1260*9.81*2.2/0.8 = 34kW cruising engine power. 145kW is only used for climbing and takeoff.

    It should be possible to double the 200mile range achieved in this competition. Note that the batteries alone probably cost $80k, but that is not bad compared to incredibly antiquated thirsty and expensive aviation motors currently used.

  40. View from the Solent says:

    “No, that’s not the name of a rock band.”
    But when can we expect Electric Starship?

  41. You may be interested in the Sonex electric airplane::
    http://www.sonexaircraft.com/research/e-flight/
    and this Wikipedia page: Electric Aircraft http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_aircraft

  42. David in Georiga says:

    I see a lot of posts here talking about the uselessness of electric airplanes. For the ordinary airline passenger, I agree. On the other hand, airline travel itself is generally wasteful over land, compared to rail. Over the oceans, air travel is the best way to go, and jets are the most efficient way to get there quickly to date.

    This does NOT mean that we should never try to advance the state of the art in small aircraft design. While battery electric is not viable for commercial transportation, it’s a great idea for “self launched gliders.” Hell, I have flown hang gliders for 20 years and once in the air I can often stay up as long as my bladder will allow. If I had a small, efficient plane that could self launch and climb to 5000′, I’d be able to fly it for as long as I was interested in flying for pleasure anyway. If it would stay in the air for a few hours, I could use it to fly to destinations in about a 200 mile radius for much less than I could with a conventional private airplane.

    Imagine a personal, sleek, four-person aircraft (already in the $100,000 range for a new craft) that uses a powerful electric engine (100 hp for takeoff, 20 hp for level flight) with a small fuel cell running to sustain flight when flying and charge the small “take off” batteries for the few minutes needed to get the plane to altitude. It would be a good fit for someone who can already afford to fly a private plane. For those who can’t, well, they weren’t going to buy an new airplane anyway.

  43. kwik says:

    View from the Solent says:
    October 4, 2011 at 2:51 am

    “How does an individual become diverse?”

    By following the concensus that the science is settled. And by being so rich that you can play with these toys in your spare time, and otherwise use your private jet.

  44. Genghis says:

    I built a GlaStar (experimental two seater) with a Subaru Engine. I get 30 mpg at 130 mph and around 40 to 50 mpg at 90 mph. All for less than the cost of the batteries in the winning plane.

  45. Alvin says:

    Here you go, I am sure this group is “diverse”. Not everyone has a purple shirt, some have a dark purple shirt (Archer).

  46. rbateman says:

    I have the perfect glider solution, and there are no messy engine batteries or even engines (on the glider, this is). It does comes equipped with a small radio for comunication.
    The standard propulsion unit is fixed, and consists of a catapult launcher.
    The mobile version is semi-flatbed mounted and can sit on a railcar.
    Power is optionally supplied by a Conan-the-Barbarian windup device, or your choice of conventional fossil fuel engine affixed to the catapult launcher.
    There is also (for a substantial sum) a rocket-assist package (ejectable). We like to call it the “Dr. Strangelove” package, as it is remote control steered.
    If you want to go higher/glide longer, you simply build a bigger mousetrap.
    Comes complete with 500 copies of lease agreement/damage or death waivers.

  47. Falstaff says:

    Electric aviation development has been picking up speed for some time. GE Aviation now has an electric power R&D center in Dayton, Ohio. Boeing’s already built and tested an experimental electric prop powered by fuel cell. The energy density of aviation fuel is a large advantage, but there other advantages of electric motors and batteries are too large to dismiss: noise reduction allowing arrival/departure into otherwise closed-hours airports, no flight ceiling due to the engine, up to 99% efficiency of HTS electric motors, energy cost savings per mile of electric kWh vs Jet-A, thrust from GE90 turbo fan engine is already mostly from the fan (9:1 bypass), etc. While battery based electric jets may not be used to cross oceans in fifty years, if the NY-Boston shuttle is not making electric runs after the noise curfew with a five minute battery swap turn around within thirty years I guess it will not be because of technical or economic limitations.

    o 2010 Economist article on numerous electric experimental aircraft.
    http://www.economist.com/node/16295620
    …completing development of a two-seater called the ElectraFlyer-X. It will be able to fly for two hours and reach a top speed of 128kph (80mph). It can be recharged in around three hours from a built-in charger, has a 15-metre wingspan and a lift-to-drag ratio of around 30:1. The plan is to sell the ElectraFlyer-X in kit form for around $65,000; the batteries cost an extra $15,000.

    o GE Aviation plans:
    http://www.reliableplant.com/Read/27532/Electric-cars-planes-behind

    o Beyond Aviation and Cessna partnership to produce electric Cessna Skyhawk 172. Plan is to carry sufficient batteries for two hours of flight, with a cost per mile flown “several multiples” less than aviation fuel equivalent. Target is the flight training market (multiple 1-2 hour flights per day).
    http://www.cessna.com/NewReleases/New/NewReleaseNum-1192324720455.html
    http://www.beyond-aviation.com/

    o 2009 Masson, Luongo IEEE paper “Next Generation More-Electric Aircraft: A Potential Application for HTS Superconductors.”
    http://www.drives.co.uk/fullstory.asp?id=2033
    http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/search/srchabstract.jsp?arnumber=5153109&isnumber=5166701&punumber=77&k2dockey=5153109@ieeejrns&query=%28%28masson%29%3Cin%3Eau+%29&pos=5&access=no
    http://www.masbret.com/asc08/ASC08_Tuesday_Plenary_Electric_Aircraft.ppt
    http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpls/abs_all.jsp?arnumber=4275231&tag=1

    o NASA Puffin. Vertical takeoff dual prop aircraft.

    http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/blogs/business_aviation/index.jsp?plckController=Blog&plckBlogPage=BlogViewPost&newspaperUserId=2f16318d-d960-4e49-bc9f-86f1805f2c7f&plckPostId=Blog%3a2f16318d-d960-4e49-bc9f-86f1805f2c7fPost%3ad341a5a0-b4d4-4ae1-a99b-9488d0b1d281&plckScript=blogScript&plckElementId=blogDest
    300 lb air frame, cruise 150 mph, sprint 300 mph, ceiling 30k feet, 50 mile range at cruise w/ current batteries, eventually 175 miles.

  48. Chris Nelli says:

    Yes, new airplanes like the A380 and 787 easily exceed 100 miles per gallon per passenger. Interestingly, a 4 passenger car (full-size) that gets >25 miles per gallon achieves the same. I believe a realistic goal for the next 10-20 years is to develop airplanes and cars that get a fuel efficiency of 120-150 mpg per passenger (fleet average).

    This allows for a number of things, such as insulating consumers and manufacturers of fuel price shocks, allows for increased standard of living in developing countries, and stretches out the horizon needed for new energy development.

  49. david eaton says:

    Very interesting. but i will only be convinced when Al Gore uses one!

  50. dave ward says:

    “Two 195hp engines should drag most regular airplanes along at something like 200mph.”
    The Technam P2006T manages 150knots with just two 100hp Rotax 912 engines.
    http://www.tecnam.com/it-it/flotta/twin/p2006t.aspx

  51. Ben of Houston says:

    Until you can put a reactor in a Boeing or Airbus for flight ranges measured in days or weeks, I’m not getting excited.

  52. P. Solar says:

    So having seen promoting electric cars as a “green” revolution without saying where and how that electricity will be generated , I saw this one a mile off as soon as I read all the winners were electric models , it had to be rigged.

    I popped straight over to the organisers web site and grabbed “complete rules kit”.

    http://cafefoundation.org/v2/main_home.php

    I found what I was looking for in Appendix E.

    Example #1: If a 2 seat aircraft consumes 200,000 BTU of bio-diesel fuel during its 200
    mile flight attempt, that will represent 200,000 ÷ 115,000 BTU or 1.739 gallons used.
    This then calculates as 200 miles ÷ 1.739 gallons giving 115 Vehicle MPGe. Since there
    are two seats in the vehicle, this makes 2 x 115 or 230 Passenger-MPGe.

    “Example #2: If according to the on-board totalizer a 4 seat aircraft consumes 100 kWh of
    electricity during its 200 mile flight attempt, that represents 100 kWh ÷ 33.7 kWh per
    gallon = 2.967 gallons of fuel used, since each gallon of 87 octane regular unleaded auto
    gasoline represents 33.7 kWh. This then calculates as 200 miles ÷ 2.967 gallons = 67.4
    vehicle MPGe and, since there are four seats in the vehicle, this makes 4 x 67.4 or 269.63
    Passenger-MPGe.”

    So real planes burning real fuel get assessed on real primary fuel consumption . Electric planes get assessed on how much electrical energy they consumed converted in ficticious BTU gallons.

    Nice trick. So no accounting for the inefficiency of the charge/discharge cycle and above all NO account of how much primary fuel it took to produce the electricity that charged the batteries!

    Since centralised power generation is generally only about 30-35% efficient this give a totally unfounded three to one advantage in favour of the electric aircraft.

    The fact that petroleum based aircraft are able even able to compete in such a horrendously rigged competition is amazing and just shows how utterly wasteful these “green wonder” electrics are.

    Two hundred miles on one gallon of fuel / person. Astounding
    And the press release does not even have the curtsey to mention the name of REAL winner , the third placed aircraft.

  53. ROM says:

    From the Lange Antares site;
    http://www.lange-aviation.com/htm/english/products/antares_h3/antares_h3.html

    6000 Kilometer range using fuel-cells

    In 2010 the project partners tested how fuel cells perform in aviation, using the flying test-bed, the Antares DLR-H2. During one of these tests, an altitude record of 2560 m (8400 ft) was set. The Antares H3 will demonstrate significantly increased performance: The developers plan to achieve a range of up to 6000 km (3200 Nm), and an endurance of more than 50h. For the Antares H2, these values were respectively 700 km (405 Nm) and 5 hours. The aircraft will have a wingspan of 23 m ((75 ft), a maximum takeoff weight of 1.25 metric tons (2756 lb), and it will carry payloads of up to 200 kg (440 lb). The aircraft will use four external pods to house fuel cells and fuel.

    It was from seemingly crude beginnings such as the above that were predicted to be doomed to complete failure by the experts of the time that we got the automobile, aircraft, jet engines, diesel engines and innumerable other items of advanced technology that are now accepted as everyday essential items in our lives.

  54. Falstaff says:

    “Chris Nelli says:
    October 4, 2011 at 12:59 pm
    Yes, new airplanes like the A380 and 787 easily exceed 100 miles per gallon per passenger”

    Yes, but smaller general aviation aircraft the size of those in the contest do not. NASA has them at 5-50mpge per passenger in the article reference links.

  55. Falstaff says:

    “Philip Bradley says, October 4, 2011 at 2:45 am:
    I gallon aviation fuel equivalent to about 36 kilowatthours of electricity.

    It must be pretty close to being able to put solar panels on it and it could fly all day on solar.”

    Recall the winner actually used half, 18 kWh over two hours, or a rate of 9KW. If its sunny, that’s an array of ~40 square meters if flown ~10 to 2PM, increasing outside that time range.

  56. Falstaff says:

    “P. Solar says, October 4, 2011 at 2:18 pm:
    So real planes burning real fuel get assessed on real primary fuel consumption . Electric planes get assessed on how much electrical energy they consumed converted in ficticious BTU gallons.

    Nice trick. So no accounting for the inefficiency of the charge/discharge cycle and above all NO account of how much primary fuel it took to produce the electricity that charged the batteries!…”

    If one object of the competition was to inspire greater efficiency in aircraft, then energy used by the aircraft must be the metric. You may have a point about charging efficiency, but I think that should only apply intrinsically, that is if the design included ‘on board’ charging from either a traditional fuel generator or solar array in which case the the final result would reflect charging efficiency. Discharge efficiency was of course accounted for as the battery discharged during flight.

  57. Mike Borgelt says:

    Small electric airplanes are an interesting technology exercise but I think will be like human powered flight. Everybody see lots of Human powered airplanes in everyday use? The tech has been around for 35 years and they even flew one a significant distance.
    Maybe if batteries improve by a factor of ten, electric airplanes might be useful.
    I’m not that impressed by the electric self launching gliders either. The batteries are heavy for minimal retrieve range. I believe jet propulsion is the answer for self launch gliders. My project is making progress.

  58. BCD says:

    What this is about is obvious in the name they chose – regulations, like ‘CAFE’ standards for cars.

    They’ll be mandating a certain number of these in aircraft manufacturers’ fleets. They’ll force airports to allocate a percentage of their landing slots to electrics, like carpool lanes. Forget building a new airport unless it’s a quiet, zero carbon, all-electric one, complete with taxpayer funded solar panel recharging stations. The organizer of this is already talking about how so many people will be using these we’ll need electronic ‘highways in the sky’ where you surrender control of navigation. The market will not materialize, but the regs are sure to happen.

    They don’t have to be practical. They just have to be something real they can mandate you to use.

  59. Greg Holmes says:

    I just love watching the Government departments giving tax dollars away, It makes me feel better about the millions wasted over in the UK, I thought that we are all “skint”, spent into penury by our politicians, it cannot be so! spending continues apace, monopoly money?

  60. Jake says:

    Electric, eh? So if you’re in a situation where terrorists are trying to hijack the plane mid-air, how do you dump the fuel? Do you discharge it into the nearest field of cows by lightning bolt?

  61. Falstaff says:

    Jake: If electric fans are powered by an electric fuel cell, dump the fuel cell fuel. If the fans are powered by battery, there would be any number of ways of permanently disabling the battery electronics.

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