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Sport Aircraft Company Shows Concept Electric Motor in Waiex Airframe

At EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, Sonex Aircraft introduced a proof-of-concept electric motor in a Waiex airframe.

The Sonex electric motor and mount employed in a proof-of-concept Waiex airframe to demonstrate the potential of compact electric power and advanced-technology batteries. Photo by Dave Higdon.

The electric propulsion system is part of what Sonex calls its E-Flight research and development initiative, designed to develop alternative energy applications for near-term use in sport pilot aircraft.

The E-flight project has three main components, with the electric motor being the most revolutionary initiative. However, Sonex is also investigating converting the AeroVee 2.0 power plant for use of ethanol-based fuels to increase its performance and efficiency.

As the third part of the project, Sonex is developing enhancements to the existing AeroVee 2.0 engine to further increase fuel efficiency and performance.

E-flight is a push to explore viable alternative energies for powering sport aircraft and improve the efficiency and performance of current products and technologies to keep aviation affordable and recreational aviation available to future generations of pilots. We’re building for the future when being environmentally conscious and energy efficient will become even more important.

—John Monnett, Sonex President



Too bad they can't hybridize airplanes. That would be interesting.


Although lithium-ion batteries (200 Wh/kg) can't compete with fossil fuel (~35,000 Wh/kg) for the low-weight energy storage required for flight, the lithium-air couple can (11,600 Wh/kg) because electric motors are about 3x more efficient than ICE or turbine engines.

Zero-emissions rechargeable flight of near equivalent range to today is possible.

P Schager

I disagree that you can't hybridize airplanes. While planes don't have the wild power swings that cars do and usually run in cruise, the power requirements for a safe take-off are around twice what you need in cruise. An electric motor could supply half your power, and really only be used around take-off. The ICE would be run close to flat out in cruise, which should help you with efficiency. With the latest lithium batteries, the weight penalty is disappearing and will change to an advantage in this application. Where the electric motor really shines is in enabling the level of reliability that you need without the very high maintenance costs of airplane ICE engines. This reliability factor is especially important in single-propeller craft like the one shown. And is even more important on VTOLs, being responsible for their high costs.

If the V-22 Osprey had two engine/motor pairs in its wingtip pods, it could achieve the same reliability as they have without the wingspan-length driveshaft and billion-dollar transmission design.

Having hybridized you're ready for the next step, which is to add a fuel cell so you can get long range using liquid hydrogen, the electric now being the preferred motor in cruise. This is where fuel cells will make their mark.

Floyd Fancher

I have an engine design that would do everything others are trying to do.
But no one will even look at my design. Why? are they scared?

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