Monday, August 8, 2011

Electric Airplane Has 4 Seats, Two Fuselages, One Big Motor

Electric Airplane Has 4 Seats, Two Fuselages, One Big Motor: "

Slovenian aircraft manufacturer Pipistrel is entering next month’s NASA/CAFE Green Flight Challenge with an unusual electric airplane built in mere months specifically for the competition.

The Taurus G4 is a test bed to develop a high-power electric propulsion system. It features twin fuselages, room for four and the biggest electric motor we’ve seen bolted to an airframe. In a nod to the early days of aviation, when new designs went from idea to runway in just weeks or months, the airplane came together remarkably quickly.

“The airplane was designed and built in the course of four months,” Pipistrel’s Tine Tomazic told us at the big Airventure airshow, adding that the G4 was built specifically for the NASA/CAFE Green Flight Challenge. “Its sizing and aerodynamic features, as well as the power train and battery capacity were matched to the requirements.”

The competition, which begins Sept. 25, is aimed at developing highly fuel-efficient, yet practical, aircraft. Competitors must fly at least 200 miles in less than two hours while averaging at least 200 seat miles per gallon. With its four seats, Tomazic believes the Taurus G4 has a distinct advantage if Pipistrel can meet the performance requirements.

Tomazic works in research and development for Pipistrel and is coordinating its Green Flight Challenge effort. The Taurus G4 was built entirely in house, and mostly of carbon fiber with some Kevlar here and there. It is essentially a pair of Pipistrel’s Taurus self-launch glider fuselages joined by a single wing.

But the most interesting part is the powerplant.

Mounted between the fuselages is a 150 kilowatt (200 horsepower) electric motor. It is the most powerful electric motor seen thus far in an all-electric airplane design.

All that power requires plenty of energy. The Taurus G4 carries more than 1,100 pounds of lithium polymer batteries. Tomazic wouldn’t elaborate on the details, but says there is more than 75 kilowatt-hours available via the company’s proprietary management system.

The airframe is very light. Although the aircraft weighs roughly 2,350 pounds empty, nearly half of that is the battery. Maximum takeoff weight is 3,300 pounds.

The right fuselage of the Taurus G4 contains the cockpit with dual controls.

Tomazic says the airplane is purely a demonstrator, with no plans for production.

“The configuration is not classic, so I doubt people would like it as their private plane,” he says.

Pipistrel is using the G4 to develop the motor, battery and power management system for a more traditional design. The company sees great potential in the drivetrain.

“This would be an ideal power level to be put in a bigger, three- or four-seat airplane,” Tomazic says. “A performance airplane.”

Pipistrel has been around 25 years and produces several light sport aircraft and motor gliders. The Taurus Electro is a self-launch glider powered by a small electric motor, which helps the pilot attain sufficient altitude for soaring. But Tomazic mentions the company’s new Panthera as the plane slated to receive the powertrain being developed on the Taurus G4.

This sleek four-seat aircraft is aimed more at traditional aircraft rather than as a soaring airplane. Tomazic says the plane should make its first flight by the end of the year; he expects to see deliveries by the middle of 2013.

The airplane's motor glider roots are evident in the long, high aspect ratio wings.

The rapid pace of development we’re seeing in electric airplanes has drawn comparisons to the early days of aviation, when new ideas and designs came quickly. Tomazic says the comparison isn’t lost on anyone, and evolving technology requires moving quickly to bring ideas to market.

“I think we’re sort of in the dawn of electric flight, maybe compared to the times after the First World War,” Tomazic says. “A lot will happen, there will be many hits and misses. But in the end somebody will get it right and we’ll be on track.”

Pipistrel continues to cover its bases developing gasoline powered airplanes in parallel with electric airplanes. Like other companies, even hybrid power is in the works.

The company is no stranger to the Green Flight Challenge, which recently received a big sponsorship from Google. The company won the contest in 2007 and 2008 and could be the team to beat this year.

Judging by the dead grass around the Taurus G4 at Oshkosh, it was popular with visitors.

Photos: Jason Paur/



Alissa said...

I didn't know there was an electric plane! That's saying something because I'm an aviation accident attorney. Thank you so much for sharing, I'll make sure to spread the news.

laptops said...

I didn´t know neither.

Apartment in pattaya said...

I hope the future passenger airplanes will all be electric powered. In that way traveling will become more environmental friendly.

MisYahd said...

It looks like a kind of glider plane that have two pods, but can that engine really take them up high?
electric motor rewinds

aircraft hardware said...

I'm excited as to how they're slowly implementing electric vehicles. I know it's not soon but any step towards the phasing out of petroleum is good in my book.

aviation accident lawyer said...

Those electric airplanes look cool. However, I would love to see those fly!

canciones nuevas said...

Thats for sure @aviation.

mensajes movistar said...

Wow sounds so amazing.

electric motor repairs said...

First came electric cars, and now electric planes. A green future is starting to look more and more likely as time goes on.

los angeles personal injury attorney said...

They all look really fancy but I hope they also have safety and security measures in place for the public who will be trying out those prototypes.

airplane accident attorney said...

I am impressed with the design and stuff but the fact that this plane is not function able meaning its not safe.

Unknown said...

Those are really innovative-looking air crafts. But it has become a notion as well to get them checked day by day. My brother is into engineering and he said that he had acquired power tools for sale by a friend who was also a mechanic of air crafts. These tools are very much helpful for his job.

web said...

the electric airplaine sounds amazing.

Thaddeus Morris said...

I'm into electric cars because but I'm not sure I'm ready for electric airplanes yet. With cars, if you know your way with tools, you can fix it if in case it broke in the middle of nowhere.

Donald Warren said...

Always been a fan of EVs ever since they first started producing cars like those. I thought they are interesting and cost-efficient cause compared to the source of their fuel it's renewable and can be produced whether by the use of any kind of electricity sources.

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