Electron: an Electric Kit LSA with Promise

Since we recently promoted a survey on interest in a kit-built Light Sport Aircraft that would be powered electrically, it’s interesting to see such a craft nearing first flight in Australia.

Electron E-75’s white shell shows precision of moldings

Electron looks a great deal like Zara Rutherford’s record attempt Shark, a Slovakian European ultralight.  Even with fixed gear rather than the retractables on Zara’s Shark, the Electron still promises a cruise speed of 250 kilometers per hour (155 mph).

75 kilowatts (100.5 horsepower) can urge the plane to that speed, considerably faster than a Cessna 150 on the same power.  Weighing less than 600 kilograms (1,320 pounds), Electron is 280 pounds lighter than a 150 at full gross weight.  Its eight-meter (26.24 feet) wingspan and 9.29 square meters (99.99 square feet) of wing area gives a slightly higher span loading than a 150, and a significantly greater wing loading.  Still, Electron promises much greater speed.  We will await rate of climb figures.

Rudder pedal shows clever engineering, light weighting of components

Carbon fiber, “targeted use of aramid (Kevlar?), and CNC aluminum components contribute to a light, strong structure.  Beautifully made molds produce sailplane-like, wave-free surfaces, which enhance the laminar flow design.

The 75-kilowatt motor is listed as an MGM-Compro REB-90 according to the Australian magazine, Sport Flying.  Weighing 22 kilograms (48.5 pounds), the motor is a small part of the aircraft’s total weight.  Of course, this is short of the added weight of an electronic speed controller (ESC) and the 46 kilowatt-hour battery.  Based on a “guesstimate” of 200 Watt-hours per kilogram, such a pack would weigh about 230 kilos (506 pounds).  The battery pack can provide a claimed range of 350 kilometers (217 statute miles).

On the MGM-Compro web site, the motor is priced at 7,875 euros (9,065 U. S. dollars).  Operating costs, according to Electron Aero, would be around $16 to $18 per hour.  These are Australian dollars, equivalent to $11.68 to $13.14 U. S.  At current market prices, lithium-ion batteries cost about $137 U. S. per kilowatt-hour.  The pack would cost $6,302 at those prices.  Adding costs for a battery management system and associated cables could mean a total powerplant price under $20,000.  This puts the package and operating costs at or below those for a conventional system.  With battery prices trending lower, and aviation gasoline prices trending higher, we could see price parity soon.

Compro motor fits neatly behind propeller spinner

Developers, though, indicate pricing may be in the $150,000 to $200,000 (AUD) range ($110,205 to $147,000 USD).  That’s in the upper end of LSA pricing, but with a performance bonus.

If Electron Aero can bring a kit to market at a reasonable price, with a well-integrated power system and modern, electric instrumentation, they will have a competitive, modern craft that would look good on any flight line.

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