NASA awards Green Flight Challenge Prizes; electric-powered winners fly 200 miles on .5 gallon fuel equivalent per passenger
03 October 2011
|the Pipistrel Taurus G4 in flight. Click to enlarge.|
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. (Earlier post.) The first place Green Flight Challenge prize of $1.35 million was awarded to team Pipistrel-USA.com of State College, Pa, for the Taurus G4. The second place prize of $120,000 went to team eGenius, of Ramona, Calif.
The winning aircraft had to fly 200 miles (322 km) in less than two hours and use less than one gallon of fuel per occupant, or the equivalent in electricity. The winning aircraft also had to take off from a distance of less than 2,000 feet to clear a 50-foot obstacle and deliver a decibel level below 78 dBA at full power takeoff, as measured from a 250-foot sideline.
The twin fuselage Taurus G4 motor glider features a 145 kW electric motor, lithium-ion batteries, and retractable landing gear.
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.
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. The technologies demonstrated by competitors in the CAFE Green Flight Challenge, sponsored by Google, may end up in general aviation aircraft, spawning new jobs and new industries for the 21st century, NASA said.
Two years ago the thought of flying 200 miles at 100 mph in an electric aircraft was pure science fiction. Now, we are all looking forward to the future of electric aviation.—Jack W. Langelaan, team leader of Team Pipistrel-USA.com
The competition marked 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.
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.
It's a shame you didn't report on the batteries they used. I'm sure they used a high tech motor and some composite materials, but really it's all about the batteries. :-)
Posted by: Dilbert Dilbertby | 04 October 2011 at 02:36 AM
As a huge EV proponent, it is always interesting to see advances in anything to do with e tech and as Dilbert points out, this had to be something at least mildly interesting on the battery front....details please.
However, as much as I like EVs....I wonder if planes are the right venue for electric power??? Seems like a HUGE stretch with any current tech, and bound to not be very practical in the real world?
I guess we'll see.
Posted by: DaveD | 04 October 2011 at 05:37 AM
DaveD, consider the premium on aviation fuel, the hundreds of ICE moving parts, the required reliability and forced maintenance/engine overhauls, the noise, pollution..
A one-moving-part electric motor and even a single hour of flight time and quick charge/battery swap would be a Godsend to pilot training and affordable recreational flying at a fraction of the ICE costs.
Think of the aircraft air structure life of a nearly vibration-free electric motor vs banks of ICE cylinders.
Heck, I wish my Hyundai could take me 200 MILES on 1/2 gallon of fuel.
Posted by: kelly | 04 October 2011 at 06:53 AM
"However, as much as I like EVs....I wonder if planes are the right venue for electric power???"
Solar powered planes that stay in the air for months at a time?.. you gotta have batteries to power the solid state 1MW pulse laser :)
Posted by: Herm | 04 October 2011 at 07:08 AM
Solar powered e-planes would need much smaller, lighter batteries and users could FUN FLY as long as they can physically stand it.
Posted by: HarveyD | 04 October 2011 at 09:38 AM
@Dilbert Dilbertby - There was a Dow Kokam sticker on the plane, so I presume they were sponsored by them and using their batteries.
I know those batteries have also been used in the "White Zombie" (and a different higher energy cell now being used in a new project by the same guy John Wayland aiming to build a 400 mile Insight using the drivetrain from an EV1.
Also used by Motoczysz in the EV motorcycle racing circuit.
They seem to have some some high performance cells - but have to wonder about the cost since they're not used in any high volume apps yet, only racing so far.
Posted by: Dave R | 04 October 2011 at 10:12 AM
IF we reveal a source of essentially unlimited heat energy we might see Stirling engines replacing some ICE. But there is likely a healthy bio-jet fuel industry for the long term.
Posted by: Reel$$ | 04 October 2011 at 01:14 PM
We'll clearly need advancements in supercapcitors to have ever-present solar-powered AI drones firing 1MW pulse lasers at targets of their own choosing to keep us all safe. If only we could make graphene in bulk we could have this dream application ;-)
Posted by: HealthyBreeze | 04 October 2011 at 01:29 PM
Bio-jet fuel is contributing to the loss of the natural environment by inducing people to start oil plantations. Just as exotic animals are restricted in commerce, no bio oils should enter any country in any form. There is not enough land area for the fuel that is needed. ..HG..
Posted by: Henry Gibson | 22 October 2011 at 03:41 AM