On July 9, 2015 pilot Hugues Duwal appeared to cross the channel in a tiny Columban Cri-Cri. It’s name comes from French for “cricket”, and it is an unbelievably tiny airplane. If the E-Fan is a Smart Car, the Cri-Cri designed in the 1970s, resembles nothing so much as a Peel Trident, the world’s second-smallest car. The Cri-Cri is a half-sized cockpit put into the middle of a quarter-scale plane, with two small engines powering propellers that stick out in front of the cockpit like catfish whiskers. The wingspan is just 16 feet, so flying the whole plane is like wearing giant wings. If Duwal’s flight was indeed successful, and his CriCri was indeed an electric one and not the two-stroke engines common to Cri-Cris, then he may have under the cover of darkness snuck past Airbus and into the history books, or at least the books of minor aviation feats.
On July 10, 2015 an Airbus E-Fan crossed the english channel. The E-Fan is an electric plane that looks like the tiny, electric-smartcar version of an A-10 fighter. Powered only by batteries, it has two fans situated behind the cockpit, promising up to 45 minutes of flight time with a top speed of 137 mph. The E-Fan crossed the channel in about 40 minutes.
Airbus has stated that there are plans for development of a commercial regional electric powered aircraft in the near future.
The E-Fan 2.0 will go into production by 2017 with a side-by-side seating layout
Capacity: one passenger
Length: 6.67 m (21 ft 11 in)
Wingspan: 9.50 m (31 ft 2 in)
Max takeoff weight: 550 kg (1,213 lb)
Powerplant: 2 × Electric motor , 30 kW (40 hp) each via eight-blade ducted fans,each producing thrust of 0.75 kN (266 lb st), Battery: Lithium-ion 18650, with 207 Wh/kg per cel, total of 29 kWh at a battery weight of 167 kg
Maximum speed: 220 km/h (137 mph; 119 kn) all performance figures estimated
Cruising speed: 160 km/h (99 mph; 86 kn)
Endurance: 60 min
Another electric plane—the Pipistrel Alpha Electro—should’ve crossed the Channel as well, but the flight was reportedly blocked due to a dispute between the plane maker and Siemens (which made the electric motor in the Airbus Alpha Electro).
The RX1E Ruixiang isn’t just the first passenger electric plane produced in China, though. It is “the world’s first electric passenger plane that received an airworthiness certificate.”
The RX1E Ruixiang’s range is not that different from the range of the two-seat E-Fan that Didier Esteyne just used to fly across the English Channel. While Esteyne’s plane has about 50 minutes of flying time on a full charge, the RX1E has about 40 minutes of flying time. The RX1E maximizes its range with the use of lightweight carbon fiber, and its battery charges in about 1½ hours.
250 KW electric airplane engine by Siemens
Developed by researchers at Siemens in Germany the motor, which weighs just 50kg, delivers a continuous output of about 260kW – five times more than comparable drive systems.
The team claims that the motor’s power-to-weight ratio of 5kW per kilogram could enable larger aircraft with take-off weights of up to two tons to make use of electric drives for the first time.
Electric motors of comparable strength that are used in industrial applications typically deliver less than 1kW per kg, whilst the performance of drive systems used in electric vehicles is about 2kW per kg. Siemens claims that it achieved the improved performance by employing advanced simulation techniques and reducing the weight of every component of the system.
Because the motor delivers its performance at rotational speeds of just 2,500 revolutions per minute, it is able to drive propellers directly without the use of a transmission.
In the next step, the Siemens researchers will boost output further. “We’re convinced that the use of hybrid-electric drives in regional airliners with 50 to 100 passengers is a real medium-term possibility,” said Anton.
SOURCES – Youtube, The Engineer UK, Cleantechnica, Arstechnica UK, Popular Science, Wikipedia
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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