April 25, 2014 (Scottsdale, AZ)
The next big thing in aviation might be electric planes. Experiments with electric powered aircraft have been around for awhile and companies are developing and now selling several types of electric planes for general aviation.
Flying With Solar Energy
The Swiss made Solar Impulse HB-SIA is a solar prototype aircraft that uses 11,628 photovoltaic (solar) cells located on top of the 208 foot wing, to capture sunlight. The cells then power four 10 hp electric motors that propel the 3,527-pound plane at around 40 knots, and charge the lithium polymer batteries that allow the plane to fly at night. In 2010, the Solar Impulse was the first solar plane to make a night flight, setting three world records. In 2013 the Solar Impulse flew across the U.S. from San Francisco to New York City, making only 3 stops, demonstrating that clean and renewable energy can be used to power a plane. In 2015 the Solar Impulse team plans to circumnavigate the globe, using only solar electric power.
In 2010, European aerospace company EADS unveiled an electric plane called the Cri-Cri. It could climb at a rate of 1,000 feet per minute and it set a world speed record at the 2011 Paris Air Show, for an electric plane, traveling at 176 mph. Electric gliders are also flying today. The Lange Antares 20E is a self launching glider that uses an electric motor, powered by lithium-ion batteries and can climb up to 3,000 meters at full charge. Cessna has even experimented with an all-electric version of the popular Cessna 172.
Electric General Aviation Planes
How would you like a personal plane that you just plug-in for a couple of hours and it’s ready to fly? No more calling to get fueled up before your flight. Electric cars have become increasingly popular, so why not an electric plane ? The eSpyder is one such electric plane. The eSpyder is produced in China by Yuneec International and is currently being marketed and sold by U.S. company Green Wing. Green Wing claims the eSpyer’s electric motor is so quiet that you can cruise 1,000 feet off the ground and still hear what’s going on down on the surface. The plane is equipped with a 75 volt lithium battery that can be fully charged in 2-3 hours and gives the eSpyder about 1 to 1.5 hours of flying time. The eSpyder can takeoff in 320 feet, can cruise at a maximum speed of 68 mph and has a stall speed of only 31 mph. The eSpyder resembles a single seat ultra-light style aircraft and is currently available as a home-built kit from the company for $39,990.
Green Wing is also developing a two-seat light-sport category electric aircraft named the e430. This is a more sleek design that resembles other light-sport planes on the market, but is electric powered. The e430 has a maximum cruise speed of 87 knots, takes about 3-5 hours to charge, and is projected to be able to fly around 2 hours, on a full charge.
With more and more companies worldwide experimenting with and developing electric aircraft, the future looks bright for this clean new way of air travel.