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Siemens-powered electric plane sets two new speed records; first aerotow

4 April 2017

The Extra 330LE aerobatic plane, powered by a propulsion system from Siemens (earlier post), set two new speed records. At the Dinslaken Schwarze Heide airfield in Germany, the electric aircraft reached a top speed of around 337.50 km/h (209.7 mph) over a distance of three kilometers. The speed achieved by pilot Walter Extra was 13.48 km/h faster than the previous record, which had been set by US pilot William M. Yates in 2013.

The World Air Sports Federation (FAI) officially recognized the record flight in the category “Electric airplanes with a take-off weight less than 1,000 kilograms.” The Extra also set a new FAI world record in the category “above 1,000 kilograms”: in a slightly modified configuration with an overall weight exceeding one metric ton, test pilot Walter Kampsmann flew the electrically powered plane at a speed of 342.86 km/h (213.0 mph).

Copyright: Jean-Marie Urlacher. Click to enlarge.

The Extra 330LE gave another premiere performance by becoming the world’s first electric aircraft to tow a glider into the sky. The nearly silent aerotow piloted by Walter Extra took a type LS8-neo glider up to a height of 600 meters in only 76 seconds.

This aerotow provides further highly visible evidence of our record-setting motor’s performance capabilities.Just six such propulsion units would be sufficient to power a typical 19-seat hybrid-electric airplane.

—Frank Anton, head of eAircraft at the Siemens venture capital unit next47

The picture shows the first aerotow with an electric plane. (Copyright: Jean-Marie Urlacher.) Click to enlarge.

The new propulsion system from Siemens only recently completed its maiden flight, which took place in July 2016. In addition, the lightweight electric motor for aircraft already held a world record for power-to-weight ratio. Weighing just 50 kilograms, it supplies a constant electric output of 260 kW, which is five times more than comparable propulsion systems.

The Extra 330LE, which weighs about 1,000 kilograms, serves as the flying test bed for the new propulsion system. As an aerobatic plane, it is particularly well suited for taking the components to their stress limits and for testing and enhancing them.

Currently, there are no plans for series production of this electric plane. Siemens is also contributing this technology to its joint project with Airbus in the area of electrically powered flight. In this connection, the two companies signed a collaboration agreement in April 2016.

Electric propulsion systems are scalable, and Siemens and Airbus intend to develop hybrid-electric regional aircraft on the basis of this record-setting motor.

By 2030, we expect to see the first planes carrying up to 100 passengers and having a range of about 1,000 kilometers.

—Frank Anton

Siemens is determined to establish hybrid-electric propulsion systems for aircraft as a future area of business.

April 4, 2017 in Aviation, Electric (Battery), Hybrids, Motors | Permalink | Comments (12)


Note that ICE driven aeroplanes had hit this speed by 1922.

The problem with electric aircraft is the energy density of batteries, which is hopeless compared to chemical fuels.

Hybrid aircraft may have a bright future, where batteries are used near the ground (for noise reasons) and a turbine generator is used for climbing and cruising flight.

Airbus are abandoning the e-fan in favour of the e-fan-x which is a much larger hybrid:

OK, so how far can this plane fly? What's so great about speed if you have to land at the same airfield you took off from? You're literally "going nowhere fast."

mahonj: If (when?) rechargeable lithium air batteries become practical, it should be possible to at least build commuter aircraft good for 600+ miles. Also, while the energy density of batteries is lower, most aircraft engines (old low compression air-cooled engines) are probably below 25% efficient while the electric motor system is probably better than 80% efficient

ai vin: Most general aviation flights probably take off and land at the same airfield. This would include most training flights, almost all tow flights and many other GA flights are local.

For 600 miles, high-speed PRT, such as AirTran or something similar, should probably replace airplanes anyway. We could probably build medium speeed PRT with current technology using electronics from self-driving cars. I look for Amazon to enter this market at some point.

If this is really "nearly silent", that could be valuable. I used to fly out of a glider port that got shut down over noise (the owner tried to game neighborhood complaints by offering to sell the strip to them at some too-high price - they bought it).

Battery energy density may already be to the point where certain applications make economic and mission sense, such as: island hoppers, river/lake hoppers, motorgliders, glider aero tow, jump planes, some trainers. Regional feeders and aerial applicators are next up.

So it took from 1903 to 1922 to achieve what this plane achieved since 2016? This plane is capable of 1 hr of flight on a charge, at 200 MPH. It is expected battery advancements will double that within 5 years. If electric planes can take over short haul commercial flights it would be a dramatic decrease in fossil fuel use, and think of the price drop for fuel and maintenance!

The technology is there right now to develop a hydrogen hybrid. The idea is to use hydrogen, created from renewable energy, in a fuel cell to power aircraft ducted electric fans...that would take care of refueling delays and the range problem with little pollution, only water. The craft would carry a buffer battery for smoothing and backup. Should be a reliable way to fly.

Glider towing could be a major application.

Liquid Hydrogen (LH2) used by fuel cells can overcome the weight disadvantage of battery.
The ultra-light weight of LH2 can permit more payload, while the composite weight of the FC + e-motor + inverter would be comparable to the weight of a comparable aero engine.

At around $4 per kg as promised by Nikola Motor in the near future, at over twice the efficiency of combustion aero engines would bring the equivalent fuel cost down to around $2 per gallon of gasoline. This, in comparison to the US national average price of Avgas at $6 per gallon in 2015.

The mass production of FCV's by the automobile companies by 2015 will greatly reduce the cost of FC and e-motors and power inverters to below the current very high cost of aero engines.

Welcome to the new age of electric general aviation using Liquid Hydrogen.

All fine except the tanks to store it in - and building out a LH2 network to get it to the airdromes.
Meanwhile, I'll wait to see it.

@Roger is correct.
Cryo-Compressed H2 is even more dense than LH2, except does not have the boil-off problem. It also meets the 2015 DOE Volumetric and Gravimetric Density Goals. Check research by LLNL, ANL, BMW, and others that proposed this for automotive applications.
An extensive LH2 network would not be required (It would be produced at select airports using renewable electricity or transported by truck. Linde has both LH2 and Compressed H2 at the Munich Airport).

A major step in reducing CO2 release is to have humans and other animals and organisms genetically modified to be fueled by H2. But carbon is an essential part of the structure of animals and plants so nature did a great adaptation to use carbohydrates and oils as foods.

A Nuclear powered plane could be built tomorrow by the US government and it would not expose people in it to radiation more than the sky does to people in planes now. Passengers get at least one percent of their radioactive exposure from their seat-mates.

Such a plane could be built out of this same aircraft and could fly continuously for 20 years with only a loss of 25 percent of its power. It would use only half of its initial fuel load in 80 years, but should be topped up every five years or so for full power.

The world is somewhat short of this material, but it is what powers the big Mars rover and heated the electronics of the two twin small rovers. Two or three grams in a not too thick walled hip flask would keep hand safely warm for life. Bladon Jets could make a small jet engine generator that would contain all available fuel but only produce 7 kilowatts of heat. Which is about enough to power a small car at about 55 miles an hour on a level road with a tail wind. ..HG..

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