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Conventional Light Aircraft with Electric Motor Makes First Flight; Channel Crossing Planned for 2009

4 January 2008

Electra_231207a
The Electra in flight.

A conventional light aircraft propelled by an 18 kW electric motor powered by lithium polymer batteries made its first flight late in December in France. The 48-minute flight of the “Electra” covered more than 50 kilometers (31 miles).

The single-seater, based on a Sourciette kit aircraft, is the product of APAME (Association pour la Promotion des Aéronefs à Motorisation Électrique, Association to Promote Electrical Aircraft), with the support of a number of partners.

The wood and fabric Electra is 7m in length, with a wingspan of 9m. Weight of the aircraft without batteries is 134 kg. The battery pack weights 47 kg. Maximum takeoff weight is 265 kg. The aircraft has a cruise speed of 90 km/h.

Blorigine
Blériot preparing for the Channel crossing in 1909.

APAME plans to cross the English Channel in July 2009 with the Electra—100 years after the first crossing of the Channel by Louis Blériot in his prototype Blériot XI.

(A hattip to Clett!)

January 4, 2008 in Aviation, Electric (Battery) | Permalink | Comments (22) | TrackBack (0)

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Comments

Isn't NASA financing a similar endeavour very lately?

Is NASA a bit late?
OTOH, more players the better so more human can fly.

Will we see the day with a few million small electric planes with inexperience pilots in the air? At what point Will they intefere with Commercial flights? Will common sense restrictions be complied with by all or will the right (or freedom) to fly win?

Will flying licences and airborne police forces be required or can it stay completely unregulated?

Interesting but potentially dangerous future.

The cheapest certified aircraft right now run something like $180,000. Really nice ones like the Cirrus SR-22's run $250-500k. Even a homebuilt aircraft will run you at least $80,000 plus 1200 hours or so of your time to build it, or else buy somebody else's for $100k+. A marginal quality airplane is still going to be $40k at a minimum and may bring a boatload of repair bills with it.

The pricing alone eliminates most people from ever realizing the dream of private flight and electric motors will not make planes cheaper, just as electric cars are more expensive than gasoline cars.

The number of private pilots in America used to be something like 3 million back in the 50's, fell to 800,000 in 1980 and 500,000 by 2005 according to an article I read not long ago. Private pilots are vanishing and electric planes are unlikely to change that.

Your comments about intefering with commercial flights and being "unregulated" are absurd. Try flying into Class B (commercial) airspace without permission and you'll find military aircraft on your ass within minutes to shoot you right out of the sky.

Electric motors will make them a heck of a lot more comfortable though.

A cruise speed of 90kmh? Isn't that a bit low?

It's becoming possible to build an electric turbine. It can be used to replace conventional jets.

I've seen model electric airplanes with turbines in them. They zip along very quickly...for about 10 minutes. I wonder if they can do regenerative braking when they coast in for a landing? HOw much juice would 47 kg of batteries have?

OTOH, There have to be some unpiloted drones that do pretty well with this. Didn't NASA make a solar powered high altitude glider drone that could stay aloft for days awhile back?

Sid:

We are talking about private, simplified very light, low speed, one or two place wood/fabric electric plane kits, not heavy ultra fast fighter planes or commercial aircraft.

If mass produced, those kits will not cost more than the 4-wheel gas guzzlers that many of our kids currently drive.

The restricted lincense required to fly those very light, low speed planes should be easy to get and will not require the same proficiency level than for commercial airplanes.

Eventually, a combined ground/restricted air vehicle user license may be considered.

Electric planes don't make sense. The prop will be run at a steady speed and at significant energy expenditure where combustion engines are at their best. Electric energy storage - even with lithium would be a big safety concern.

Stirling engine airplanes are a more interesting prospect to me, if they can be done.

Notice how the two planes look similar in apearance. Also the 90kph (55mph) is considerably faster than Bleriot's original 1909 model, at 36 mph.

Any advances in power delivery and weight saving required for electric planes to advance, will ultimately carry over into landbound vehicles, in a positive way. A potential benefit for any electric battery powered appliance. Best of luck to them.

Rick, you're quite right. All the advantages of electricity go away in aircraft, and the orders-of-magnitude energy density superiority of liquid fuels wins, big time.

Mind you, ultralight planes are pretty damn fuel efficient. Some of them get about 50mpg at 130-odd mph.

90 km/h is fairly slow, even a cessna 150(a really old 2 seater airplane) flys at about 95 mph(or so says the manual, actual speeds are closer to about 85) not sure what that is in kph exactly, but significantly more than 90 km/h

This has been around for a while, although a quick google indicated the company may have gone bankrupt. I know they sold some production units. I’ve seen promo video. This is a very high performance, electric self-launching sailplane.

http://www.lange-flugzeugbau.com/pdf/in_the_press/soaring_e_tr.pdf

This has been around for a while, although a quick google indicated the company may have gone bankrupt. I know they sold some production units. I’ve seen promo video. This is a very high performance, electric self-launching sailplane.

http://www.lange-flugzeugbau.com/pdf/in_the_press/soaring_e_tr.pdf

In flight hydrogen has advantages over batteries but only in larger planes. The weight of the fuel is lower and in large volumes the weight of fuel cells and fuel tanks could be balanced out by the lower weight of the fuel. The technology to do this is not anywhere near ready but hydrogen does show some promise here.

Reading this and the comments I think it might be possible in 40-50 years to have battery powered personal aircraft. One problem right now is even if you afford a personal aircraft the fuel costs are very high.

The piloting issues of many airplanes in the sky seems like a problem now.. but with 40 years of advancements in computer technology and communication technology it won't be. You'd just link all the planes up to a network and if two planes were getting too close together the computer would take over for a bit. And of course the computer would make it impossible to go into the restricted areas, like for commercial airliners.

This flight is a long way from that possible future, but its a great and cool feat nonetheless.

Max take-off weight of 265kg.

Weight of plane + battery pack = 181kg.

84kg (185lbs) for a person fully clothed and with an emergency parachute? Must be meant for women and undernourished men (or men of short stature).

They did this with just 48 kg of LiPoly batteries (at 200 Wh/kg storing just 9.6 kWh), meaning the plane managed 3 miles per kWh, not too bad!

In future, for larger and faster aircraft and longer flights, the 200 Wh/kg LiPoly will be switched for 3,000 Wh/kg lithium-air cells. This would give 15 times the range of the currently used batteries and commercial electric flight becomes a reasonable proposition.

@Patrick

Although 84 kg is not an average weight for men, it is a perfectly healthy weight (up to 1.90 m).

In 1990, Eric Raymond flew the Sunseeker, an entirely solar powered aircraft across the USA (about 2,500 miles) from California to Kittyhawk, North Carolina in 31 hoops (about 200 miles each) on 2% efficient solar cells (Sanyo), carbon fiber frame and neodymium electric motor.

A team in Switzerland (Solar Impulse) is planning to fly around the planet on solar power in 2011.

Eric has been planning to fly around the planet on solar power for awhile too.

What's new ?

"Max take-off weight of 265kg.

Weight of plane + battery pack = 181kg.

84kg (185lbs) for a person fully clothed and with an emergency parachute? Must be meant for women and undernourished men (or men of short stature)."

185lbs: Must be one of these guys shown on these old postcards from the WWII standing in front of a P51-Mustang.


Try flying into Class B (commercial) airspace without permission and you'll find military aircraft on your ass within minutes to shoot you right out of the sky.
Except when I're flying into the Pentagon after two other commercial aırcraft have been hyjacked.

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