Designer Calin Gologan gives a walkthrough of the design features which make Elektra One such an efficient airplane, and one likely to give other competitors in the Green Flight Challenge a good run. While he describes the thin carbon-fiber shells which comprise the airplane’s primary structure, notice the light shining through. That thinness helps explain Elektra One’s 100 kilogram (220 pounds) empty weight, only about 100 pounds of which is structure. The motor is 4.7 kilogram (10.34 pounds) and the controller is a 270 gram (9-1/2 ounce) model airplane marvel. Batteries can add up to 100 kilograms and the pilot another 100 kilograms, making the strength-to-weight ratio of the craft rather impressive, and its payload carrying abilities among the greatest for flying machines.
Gologan claims a maximum range of 500 kilometers (310 miles) and an endurance of over four hours – more than good enough for the NASA/CAFE Green Flight Challenge in which the airplane will compete in late September in Santa Rosa, California. The solar cells shown on the latest flying video can provide up to 15 percent of the energy required to keep Elektra One aloft.
Solar World supplies the cells which adorn the upper surfaces of the flaps, stabilizer, and outer wing panels on the airplane. As noted in their press release, “SolarWorld and Germany’s PC Aero are working together to pioneer the world’s first comparatively affordable electric aircraft system complete with solar-equipped aircraft and solar-charging hangar.” The companies are also working on an electric aircraft “filling station,” a rarity which should become common in the coming years.
Calin Gologan will speak several times at this year’s AirVenture, and display Elektra One in the show’s Innovation Hangar, “except at midday Wednesday, July 27, when it is expected to fly.”
The solar giant sees a great deal of significance in the little airplane. “’Elektra One is emblematic of a future in mobility that relies on efficient and environmentally sound electric vehicles,’ said Frank Asbeck, CEO of SolarWorld. ‘We need to stop depending on fossil fuels – and their dirty, noisy use of scarce resources – to get from one place to another. Solar power, abundant and pervasive, is the obvious choice for travel in the skies.’”
On a fast track, Elektra One made its maiden flight in March, will be certified in the German ultralight class by the end of this year, and be on sale in Europe and the United States in 2012. The 100,000 Euro ($145,000) price tag might seem a little steep, but that’s with a solar-powered hangar which will charge the airplane between flights and provide truly free flying. The 20 square meters (about 215 square feet) of solar cells on the hangar roof are claimed to provide enough energy for 300 hours of flight per year – in the not always blazing German sun.