The CAFE Foundation has announced its partnership with the Vertical Flight Society, formerly the American Helicopter Society (AHS).  VFS is the non-profit technical society for the advancement of vertical flight.

The VFS has 21 different technical committees and two dozen active chapters around the world. There are over 100 Corporate Members and 28 Educational Members.

CAFE worked with the VFS for the Electric Aircraft Symposium at the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, during AirVenture 2019.  Now officially combining their efforts, the two organizations are actively planning EAS (Electric Aircraft Symposium) 2020 together.  Additionally, VFS has plenty of other events coming in 2020, probably being energized by the growing interest in Urban Air Mobility and the electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) machines that will make it possible.

Starting early in the New Year, “The Transformative Vertical Flight 2020 meeting will take place Jan. 21-23, 2020 in San Jose, California, with our eVTOL Short Course planned for Monday, Jan. 20 and a tour of NASA Ames on Friday, Jan. 24. A record number of abstracts were submitted for this jam-packed three-day meeting, which includes the following concurrent events:

  • “Aeromechanics for Advanced Vertical Flight Technical Meeting
  • “International Powered Lift Conference (IPLC)
  • “7th Annual Electric VTOL Symposium”

In May, an even larger event will take place.

“The Vertical Flight Society’s 76th Annual Forum & Technology Display is the world’s leading international technical event on vertical flight technology. The conference, which will beheld at the Palais des congres de Montreal, will span 3 days and include over 250 technical papers on every discipline from Acoustics to Unmanned Systems, as well as dozens of invited presentations and discussions by leaders in the military, government agencies and industry.”

Participants for all the above events and others sponsored by the organization must be members of the Vertical Flight Society.

CAFE and the VFS will enjoy the benefits of displaying together at Oshkosh and supporting one another at myriad events throughout the year.


Rolls-Royce is perhaps the epitome of Britishness, going back to 1904, when Henry Royce, founder of a successful mechanical/electrical business, met Charles Rolls, a successful car dealer in London.  Together, the founded the company which came to be known as Rolls-Royce.  By 1906, their Silver Ghost was known as “the best car in the world.”  That quality was inherent in their first aircraft engine, the Eagle, “providing some half of the total horsepower used in the air war by the allies.”  It provided the power in 1919 for the first direct flight across the Atlantic and the first flight from England to Australia – both in Vickers Vimy aircraft.  This led to racing success, with early V-12 engines by R-R powering Schneider Cup racers in the 1930’s, leading to the Merlin, which powered Hawker Hurricanes, Vickers Spitfires, and P-51 Mustangs.  Their current ACCELL project hopes to continue that tradition.

WWI Eagle aircraft engine production line. R-R Eagles would power over 50 percent of allied craft in the Great War

Rolls-Royce would love to have another round of victories to continue their successes, and now are unveiling something that has been seen mostly in computer renderings for the last several years.  Others, including YASA (Yokeless and Segmented Armature) axial flux motors, “Are smaller and lighter than any other motors in their class due to our more efficient use of key magnetic and structural materials. The YASA (Yokeless and Segmented Armature) motor topology also significantly reduces manufacturing complexity, making the motors ideally suited to automated volume production,” according to the company.  Nothing could be more British than the motor’s Oxford pedigree, a product of research that company founder and Chief Technology Officer Tim Woolmer performed at the University.

The P1E

Below, we see the result of work by Electroflight.  They created the P1E, a special race plane with two YASA motors swinging counter-rotating propellers.

Electroflight P1E with English Electric Lightning fighter – both have two power units

Electroflight recently partnered with Ansys, an American software firm (with nine offices in Great Britain) contributing high-level visualization to the design process.

“We will be using ANSYS Fluent as we continue work on Rolls-Royce’s ACCEL Electrical Project, as we help produce the world’s fastest all-electric airplane.”



Going beyond the P1E, ACCELL (Accelerating the Electrification of Flight – a messy acronym) will be airborne in spring 2020, according to Aviation Week.  Here are the project goals, with appropriately heroic music.

Electroflight defines themselves as, “The leading supplier of world-class Energy Storage Systems in aviation and other related technologies.”  Working on a high-density energy package that puts three YASA motors in tandem to produce 500 horsepower.  YASA explains that, “Even during the record run the all-electric powertrain delivers power with 90% energy efficiency and of course zero emissions. (In comparison, a Formula 1 race car tops out at close to 50% energy efficiency).”  Because of the enormous torque involved, 400 Newton meters continuous per motor (297 foot-pounds), the motors can pull ACCELL along effortlessly, with a much lower noise level than petrol-fueled machines.

According to Aviation Week, “The tail-sitter aircraft, which is based on a heavily modified version of the diesel-powered Nemesis NXT Big Frog sport racing aircraft, currently is being fitted with the [electric] propulsion system.  Imagine it with half the noise.

Ground tests of the integrated aircraft and propulsion system already are underway using a test airframe dubbed the ‘ion bird.’ Rolls says ‘planned tests over the next couple of months include running the propulsion system up to full power as well as key airworthiness checks.’”

With three of these powerful, torque-plenty motors powering one propeller, the craft will be wafted along like a World War Two fighter, a fitting reminder of Rolls-Royce’s significant part in world history.  We can hardly wait to report on the planned record run.


Help Promote Electric Aviation

Beth Stanton, an aerobatic pilot and superb writer (you can read her articles in Sport Aviation), shares the following action item.  Readers are invited to comment to the FAA by December 31.  Your comments could have a big effect promoting electric flight, especially in flight training.

Beth Stanton enjoying her favorite type of flying


“Progress on affordable electric training is happening!

 “Joseph Oldham, director of the Sustainable Aviation Project (SAP) asked me to pass this information along –

“The SAP petition to the FAA for exemption to operate 4 Pipistrel Alpha Electro Aircraft with the issuance of a Special Light Sport Aircraft airworthiness certificate to conduct flight training is now posted for public comment:

“Comments must be received by 12/30/19.

Locations for Sustainable Aviation Project airports enable cross-country flights between participating sites

“The progress of the Sustainable Aviation Project has been featured in the past few  years in two innovation features in EAA Sport Aviation magazine. An article with the latest updates is slated for the May 2020 issue of EAA Experimenter magazine.

 “Details about the mission of the Sustainable Aviation Project may be found here.
“Please feel free to pass the petition along to your associates. Let’s help get the word out!
We’ve promoted the Project in this blog extensively, since it’s a first attempt to provide certified flight training for electric aircraft:

Why This is Important

Read up on the Project and help show the FAA that electric flight training is worthy of their support.
As explained by Clean Technica recently, “Nonetheless, at stake for Pipistrel is the Special Category Light-Sport Aircraft (SLSA) designation, a highly sought-after airworthiness certificate for light-sport aircraft. It is issued to those that meet the definition of light-sport aircraft (LSA). So far, the Pipistrel Alpha Electros only have the restrictive Experimental status. They can’t be used for training in the US, which is what they were designed for. These 4 US Pipistrel Alpha Electros can only be flown privately, not for commercial purposes.”

A pair of the four Pipistrel Alpha Electros awaiting SLSA certification

Nicholas Zart concludes, “An easier path to SLSA status would open the doors to flying electric airplanes and training planes. A new generation of pilots would have an easier and more affordable way to get into the aviation industry. Considering that the aviation industry is finding it more difficult to find pilots, this makes perfect sense in an otherwise less than perfect scenario. On a personal note, I could visit family, friends, and fly into airports to cover UAM news. The more I think about it, the more pressing the idea is becoming.”

Showing why speed is of the essence, other than the December 30 deadline for comments: “The other hidden problem is that electrifying aviation and going through the many years required for certification means that the technology certified will be obsolete by the time it is approved. Electric aviation is like what desktop computers were a few decades ago, upgradeable if it is to be financially worthwhile.”

Those wanting to advance clean aviation have a golden opportunity to make their voices heard, and good reason to raise them.


Amprius, Airbus, Silicon and Batteries

Batteries are a tough study.  We see many different roads being traveled in attempts to reach the Nirvana of the lightest, most powerful energy storage cell ever.  We see continuing shortfalls because of the much chemistries that seem never to work out as hoped.  Several recent articles, though, showed links that forced your editor into a deep study of battery developments first heard about a decade ago.  These involved Yi Cui, Stanford professor and battery guru, silicon electrodes, and a new electrolyte that holds thing together.    Presaging recent developments, your editor first heard Yi Cui present at the 2009 CAFE Foundation Electric Aircraft Symposium.  Then, he predicted, based on the theoretical limits for silicon-based electrodes in batteries, that we would see 10X (greater energy density than then available) batteries in the not-too-distant future.  A decade later, his company Amprius may be edging toward that goal with new funding from Airbus.

Since then, Cui, his students and associates have helped boost the energy density of today’s batteries to about the two-or-three-X level from that of the decade ago.  A significant improvement, it’s still disappointing knowing what the possible gains might be.

Cui and others are doing even more to remedy the seeming lack of progress.


Yi Cui organized a company to make commercial inroads into the battery market, for instance.  Up to now, Amprius has been somewhat quiescent, advertising only for new and essential researchers on its web site.  Now, since a partnership with Airbus and cooperative development o the Airbus Zephyr project, the website pops with images, charts and the answer to the question, “Why Is Battery Technology Evolving So Slowly?”  The answer seems to be “Chemistry.”  While electronics evolve rapidly, “Batteries improve by making advances in chemistry and materials science.”  A somber last sentence explains, “Many of the chemical processes used in modern batteries have reached their limit.”

Amprius compares rapid development and improvement of electronic and mechanical devices with the relatively slow growth in energy storage.

Airbus has selected Amprius Inc. of Fremont, CA to power its Zephyr project. Zephyr is a light, unmanned platform which made its first flight in 2014 and operates at stratospheric altitudes and low speeds for several weeks at a time.  This HALE (High Altitude Long Endurance) machine can provide large area surveillance for weather forecasting, fire oversight, and military logistics.

Until two years ago, Sion Power in Utah provided its Licerion lithium-sulfur cells to power Zephyr.  Airbus seems to have switched partners and Sion Power has switched battery composition, now relying on lithium metal for its energy storage.  According to Sion, its cells are no longer flying on Airbus Zephyrs.

Silicon Nanowires

Amprius is not yet at the its decade-old goal, but seems to be making progress, noting energy density levels apporoaching 500 Watt-hours per kilogram – more than double most available lithium batteries.  With silicon nanowires at their electrode core, the silicon attempts to swell under charge/discharge cycles, but is constrained by the construction of the wires. This was a problem that kept earlier attempts at silicon batteries from success.

Amprius silicon nanowire seen through scanning electron microscope

Amprius explains four major factors in the nanowires:

  • Nanowires tolerate volume expansion and are rooted to the substrate.
  • Nanowires have micro and macro porosity that accommodate swell.
  • Nanowires improve Solid-Electrolyte-Interphase and cycle life.
  • Anode thickness is reduced to half of a graphite electrode thickness.

The cells are already being used in High Altitude Pseudo Satellites (HAPS), Conformal-Wearable Battery Packs, Quadcopters and Electric Vertical Take Off and Landing (e-VTOL) Vehicles, giving lots of opportunity for further development and testing.

Airbus and the Zephyr

In a joint press release Airbus and Amprius announced a new partnership between the battery maker and Airbus Defense and Space, with promises of financing from Airbus.  The funds will help “drive the development of higher volume production capacity along with higher energy density cells for Airbus Defense and Space aerospace programs, including the Zephyr High Altitude Pseudo Satellite and Urban Air Mobility innovation initiatives.”

Jana Rosenmann, Head of Airbus Unmanned Aerial Systems, explained the benefits to both partners. “This partnership reinforces the link between two market leaders, the newest generation batteries of the market matched with the most advanced HAPS program. Zephyr is currently the only one operating in the stratosphere at an average altitude of 70,000 and running exclusively on solar power, providing persistent local satellite-like services and supporting a wide range of applications and tasks.”

Jon Bornstein, COO of Amprius added, “We are extremely pleased to be working with Airbus and supplying batteries for the Zephyr program.  The incorporation of Amprius’ 100% silicon nanowire anode-based lithium ion batteries into the Zephyr platform represents an important validation of this technology. Likewise, our development of high energy power cells for Urban Air Mobility will enable exciting opportunities in new aviation markets.”


Electric Beaver Flies in Vancouver, B. C.

Residents of Vancouver, B. C. were not awakened by the overhead passage of a DeHavilland Beaver Tuesday morning.  The electrically-powered floatplane lifted off at around 8:30 a. m. and zipped by quietly, its Magnix motor humming and only its four-bladed propeller disturbing the air.  The full-flight video below has the airplane “taxiing” for the first four minutes.

Harbour Air took the daring step of publicly test flying an old but spiffily refurbished airplane with a new motor, the paint scheme revealing the location of all major electrical components.  Even more daring, Greg McDougall, founder and CEO of Harbour Air piloted the flight.  Talk about faith in your product.

Engine/Motor Swap

The Beaver’s original Pratt & Whitney R-985 engine produced 450 horsepower from its 682 pounds – relatively light for its day.  (It was developed in 1929 – two years after Lindbergh’s flight – and put into production in 1930.)  Its dual magnetos were a nod to redundancy.  The Magni500 weighs 297 pounds and produces up to 750 horsepower – relatively heavy for its output in electric motor terms.

New mechanics won’t have trouble finding major components

Pouring 20 gallons per hour through the R-985’s carburetor, though, would be the heaviest part of this comparison.  At $2.31 per liter in Vancouver (highest in British Columbia) and with 4.55 liters per imperial gallon, fuel would cost $10.47 per Imperial gallon.  (It takes 3.97 liters per U. S. gallon.  Even averaging $2.00 per liter for flying clubs and self-service providers, a 100LL-fueled Beaver would go through $158.80 for 20 U. S gallons.

Comparing Fossil Fuel to Electrical Costs

According to B. C. Hydro, average charging rates would be 10.29 Canadian cents per kilowatt hour, with 92-percent hydro generated.  Their comparisons with costs and the means of electrical generation in other countries are interesting.

Electrek reported, “[Harbour Air] didn’t confirm the energy capacity of the battery pack installed in the plane, but they did say that it weighs ‘one tonne’ (2,200 lbs). At an energy density of 300 Wh/kg, it would mean a 300 kWh battery pack.  That would mean it costs $30.87 Canadian to charge the pack – a considerable savings over fossil fuels.

Electrek adds, “MagniX CEO Roei Ganzarski told CTV News: ‘The range is not an issue for them. Today’s batteries can provide them exactly the range that they need to operate.’”

Maintenance and Fuel Burn

Ganzarski further illuminated, “If you look at a five-year lifecycle of operating a traditional gas engine, together with all the significant maintenance that’s required for that kind of engine because they’re so complex, and all of the fuel that’s burned, it is significantly cheaper to convert and operate an electric aircraft.”  Consider that the Pratt & Whitney engine has not been produced since 1953 and that most parts, outside of new old stock items found in dusty parts bins, are provided by after-market manufacturers.

Lower noise will be a great benefit to travelers and residents near Harbor Air’s many landing zones.  Lower operational costs will directly benefit the air line and maybe show up in lower ticket prices – encouraging more travelers.  It’s a way to keep old birds airborne.


Three companies with divergent backgrounds launched three new electric aircraft in the last few months.

1973, and Its Descendants are Still Electric

As noted in the blurb for its historic YouTube video for its first electric flight 46 years ago, “HB Flugtechnik is the pioneer in electric flight. The world’s first electric powered flight took place on October 21st, 1973 in Austria. 50 years later this company is still in business and doing better than ever. Given, that we talk about the aviation business, this is an outstanding and remarkable achievement. Today, HB Flugtechnik located at the now newly refurbished airfield Hofkirchen LOLH is not only the major MRO (Maintenance, Repair Organization or Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul) for aircraft in Austria, it is still working on the new frontier of electric flight.”

In a 2012 presentation at the AVT-209 Workshop in Lisbon, Portugal in 2012, Dr. Martin Hepperle of the DLR Institute of Aerodynamics and Flow Technology in Braunschweig, Germany discussed the seminal work by Fred Militky, who as chief engineer at Graupner, a model aircraft firm, went from designing small electric models (1960’s Silentius, 1972’s Hi-Fly, a twin-motor radio-controlled craft) and the MB-E1, the world’s first person-carrying electric aircraft.

He wrote, “There is nothing new under the sun… One of the Pioneers of Electric Flight, Fred Militky began with 1940 first trials,[and] after 1945 [became] chief engineer at Graupner.”  His electric motor glider MB-E1 (a Brditschka HB-3 with a span of 12 meters (39.4 feet) and a weight of 440 kilograms (968 pounds) flew on October 21, 1973.  The flight lasted about 11 minutes and reached an altitude of 360 meters (1,181 feet) under the direction of Heino Brditschka.  Its Bosch 13-horsepower motor was driven by Varta nickel-Cadmium batteries.  The two-seater became a one-seater with a large energy storage compartment behind the pilot.


Today HB Technik markets a very similar airplane, but with better batteries (that shows what 46 years of battery betterment can do), and a reasonable payload and performance.  According to its video, there’s plenty of room to grow, with even hydrogen power on the horizon.

Switzerland’s H-55 Bristell Energic

Andre’ Borschberg didn’t give up electric flight after Solar Impulse’s around-the-world conquest.  He did downsize to a more practical level, though.  We’ve reported on the H-55 Bristell Energic previously, and it has achieved its test flights last month, seeming to fly every bit as nice as it looks.  Enjoy the long interview above and the short promotional video below.

Energic’s test flight displays the stability and maneuverability of its fossil-fuel cousins.  One good outcome of all this will be fairly even comparisons of the two types of power.

And Meanwhile in China

Starting five years ago, Shenyang’s Liaoning Ruixiang General Aviation Company  started test flights on its two-seat RX1E.

The electric trainer was reputed to be the world’s first certified electric trainer (in China).  It has a longer span and slower cruise speed than Pipistrel’s Alpha Electro.

The RX4E four-seat variant flew for the first time in October, has a sailplane-like 13.5 meter (44.3 feet) wingspan and a gross weight of 1,200 kilograms (2,540 pounds).

With new craft flying in three different countries, battery-powered flight seems to be on its way to being an international thing.


Tony Bishop reports on The Royal Aeronautical Society’s International Light Aircraft Design Competition, which provided stimulating simulations for on-screen air racing.

The 2019 RAeS competition was to design an electric air-racer, inspired by Air Race E’s new competition starting up in 2020. With a single pilot and short duration, this is an excellent proving ground for new electric power train technologies.

According to the RAES, “The design rules were based on Air Race E, but widened to encourage a broader range of configurations. Air Race E rules include a minimum empty weight of 227 kg, a maximum motor power of 150 kW, fixed pitch propellers, a minimum wing area of 6.132 square meters and a fixed main undercarriage. Air Race E also demands that all motors have the same thrust line. This limitation was removed from the RAeS competition to encourage wider innovation.”

Rendering of Madison Square Gardens in 2016 shows crowd potential for cyber games similar to computer-based air races

According to Flyer magazine, racers had to fly around a five-kilometer (3.1 miles) course, staying within high and low limits and not cutting any horizontal boundaries.  “The results were announced at the Royal Aeronautical Society’s annual Light Aircraft Design Conference on Electrifying General Aviation on 18 November.  Awards were presented to the top three by Steve Slater, CEO of the Light Aircraft Association.”

An international lineup of 15 contestants pushed those rules, already more flexible than those for Air Race E, to their absolute limits. They came up with configurations featuring single to four motors, propelling monoplanes, biplanes and triplanes (or three-wing configurations).


Winner Iontrepid showed a maximum speed of 330 knots (380 mph).  It is able to take high-G turns without losing speed, despite its high-aspect ratio flying wing configuration – more something one would seen on a sailplane. Its pusher motor and retractable nosewheel, designed by Cameron Garner from x-aerodynamics of Timaru in New Zealand, minimizes drag “with the short fuselage, and the rear propeller ingests the fuselage boundary layer. Wing sections were tailored to increase laminar flow.  X-aerodynamics develop flight-realistic aircraft models for the x-plane simulator.”

Iontrepid won first place in England’s Light Aircraft Design competition emulating Air Race E rules

Showing the firm’s ability to provide realistic flight simulation, they gift users with two freeware samples, one for the Aerobask-Robin-DR401 shown below, and one for the Aerobask Lancair Legacy FG XP11.

Garner won the contest’s first prize of an aerodynamic analysis (CFD) of their configuration, provided by Airshaper in Belgium.  The winners think this will give a rigorous comparison of the design and a high-resolution analysis of the anticipate real-world performance.

Software such as that from Airshaper can predict performance from designs that otherwise might be too risky for flight tests without in-depth analysis of their characteristics – such as the Peugeot designer’s unique approach shown above.

This use of CFD and on-screen performance testing will enable designers to “wring out” designs in a safe setting and one can foresee large scale “air racing” on screen in venues like those in Madison Square Garden that attract huge crowds of cyber-gaming fans.

Sparrowhawk R-1

Second- place Sparrowhawk R-1 features a triple wing configuration with twin, wing mounted motors and a V-tail.  It’s mainly of metal construction designed for easy home-building.

Sparrowhawk, powered by two motors and controlled by three wing surfaces, is intended for home-building


Third place AFormX fielded the eponymous AFormX, featuring three motors much like a single seat Eviation Alice.   AFormX contracts flight testing for Pipistrel, and builds virtual reality flight simulators.

AFormX has three motors in a configuration much like that of Eviation’s Alice.  Wing-tip motors are intended to reduce tip vortices

We hope some of these designs will be developed into the Air Race E aircraft of the future.


First Lindbergh E-flight Rally

The Lindbergh E-flight Rally coinciding with Friedrichshafen’s annual Aero Expo will explore the growing capabilities of these amazing machines.  The Lindbergh Foundation invites owners of electric aircraft to gather two days before the opening of Aero Expo 2020 to fly over the scenic marvels of Germany, alighting on Expo opening day “around 11 a.m., just on time for the AERO press conference.”

The hoped-for en masse arrival would highlight the number of electric aircraft now flying and their reliability.  Organizers explain, “Like the first ultralight aircraft did then, the first electric aircraft today need to prove that they already function perfectly.”

The two-day aerial cortege would fly “along Lake Constance, and past castles, palaces, and churches, to a first stopover at Regio Airport Mengen, which was recently awarded a contract by the state of Baden-Württemberg for the construction of a test platform for electric flight/autonomous flying.”  There, entrants will charge their batteries and head for their second and last stop of the day, the Bad Waldsee-Reute glider airfield.

The second day, all competitors fly from Bad Waldsee to Friedrichshafer Airport, where the planes will go on display in one of the large halls.

Pilots (or their passengers) would photograph turnpoints on the two days, and their graphic documentation reviewed by judges after the craft land.  Craft will be recharged, measuring directly how much energy they used in the last part of their journey, and points added to their overall score. reports, “A prize is awarded in each of three classes: trikes, three-axle, and hybrid aircraft. Every day during the exhibition, a television escort team will capture impressions of the first Lindbergh e-flight rally, which will be shown on a large screen. Manufacturers of electric aircraft have received requests from visitors, underscoring the importance of this first worldwide rally for electric aircraft. The plan is to increase the scope every year.

Find further information, the registration form, and the conditions for the competition on the AERO website.  Entrants can exhibit series-build aircraft or prototypes.   Closing date for entries is January 31, 2020.

The AERO will take place from Wednesday, April 1 to Saturday, April 4, 2020, in Friedrichshafen on Lake Constance and is open from Wednesday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

An outgrowth of the Green Flight Challenge

As signaled by the preceding videos, several of the aircraft projected to be on display will be outgrowths of the machines that took place in the 2011 Green Flight Challenge in Santa Rosa, California.  The first-place winner, Pipistrel’s G4, managed the electric equivalent of 403.5 passenger miles per gallon. A close second-place finish by Stuttgart University’s e-Genius used 375.7 ePMPG (equivalent Passenger Miles per Gallon of gasoline)

 As we reported at the time, “… a little over 11 US gallons of gasoline (energy equivalent) were used to fly seven people [in four aircraft) (Embry Riddle’s Eco-Eagle flew with only one pilot) over a total of 725.5 miles.” (Embry Riddle flew a shorter total distance on both “runs”).

e-Genius and Pipistrel’s G4 (now the hydrogen-powered H4) will probably be on hand, and the now electric Phoenix, which ran on a Rotax internal combustion engine in 2011, might be there in its latest configuration as the Φnix (Φ being the Greek letter phi used for electrical potential and a neat pun on the original name.

Those and other electric craft including those presented at Grenchen, Switzerland’s SmartFlyer Challenge could make a sweeping change in the public’s perception of electric flight.  Think what’s happened in electric aviation since the last Expo, and what will happen in the six months before the next event.  We wish the Lindbergh Foundation, Aero Expo and all the competitors the best of fortunes.


Breakthrough Batteries Two Years Away?

Breakthrough Batteries: Powering the Era of Clean Electrification

A paper by Charlie Bloch, James Newcomb, Samhita Shiledar, and Madeline Tyson of the Rocky Mountain Institute describing the near future of battery development predicts and accelerated pace of “the global energy transition” and the growing role of energy storage in “addressing the climate crisis.”  Will these “breakthough batteries” power us into the near future?

Their report* notes the economic investment and potential impacts of ongoing research, which to this editor seems minor when compared to the gravity of the ongoing climate crisis.  Researchers estimate “more than $1.4 billion invested in battery technologies in the first half of 2019 alone,” less than 10 percent of the $16 billion spent in 2016 on plastic surgery.  Apparently, saving the planet is not nearly as crucial as getting butt lifts and Botox wrinkle removals.

Regardless of how quickly new battery technologies come to fruition, it will take time to replace existing technology infrastructures – in which trillions are already involved

Despite this, the Institute insists, “… {M}assive investments in battery manufacturing and steady advances in technology have set in motion a seismic shift in how we will organize energy systems as early as 2030.”

More hopeful, “Increased demand for electric vehicles, grid-tied storage, and other emerging applications further fuels the cycle of investment and cost declines and sets the stage for mass adoption.”  Manufacturing investment totals around $150 billion, with capital costs for new planned capacity possibly dropping by more than half from 2018 to 2023.  Dropping costs have in turn incentivized purchases and further driven demand – and will push both lithium-ion (Li-ion) and new battery technologies across competitive thresholds faster than anticipated.”

The report provides an overview of the leading technologies and chemistries, including solid-state cells and flow batteries.  It explains that rapidly-increasing demand for different energy-storage is having an effect on investments in coal, natural gas and other fossil fuels, which leaves investors at the risk of seeing their money in those enterprises stranded in an economic wasteland.

Referring to Nobel Prize winner John Goodenough’s recent claimed battery breakthough, EVobsession reported,Several manufacturing companies are interested in the new battery technology, and are currently working in getting it ready for mass production; however, a working product will be ready in a few more years from now.”  Since this was said two years ago, we might grow impatient waiting for mass production to take place.

“More specifically in March 2017, Professor Goodenough had this to say, ‘…we have done many tests with laboratory cells. Manufacturing a marketable battery cell will take about 2 years of development by a competent battery company, but we have over 50 companies showing interest to be able to perform tests of our results. I am optimistic that our tests will be verified and that product development will begin soon.’ These ‘…battery companies have shown interest in validating our findings and marketing products.’”

“Non-confirmed comments suggest that Tesla is aware of this technology.”

* Breakthrough Batteries Report includes the link in the RMI article.


Air Race E Leaps Forward with Eight Teams

The public got a glimpse of Air Race E at this year’s Dubai Air Show.  Jeff Zaltman, CEO of Air Race E and Sandra Bour-Schaeffer, head of XO Airbus Demonstrators, pulled the wraps on Team Condor’s converted Cassutt racer – one of eight teams entering the fray.

Jeff Zaltman and Sandra Bour-Schaeffer display Team Condor’s highly modified Cassutt racer 


Race E is an update of the classic small aircraft races held following World War II, and many of the airplanes in the upcoming events will be re-motored and redesigned versions of these craft.  Formula 1 racing has not changed much since its 1947 inception.

Most air small air racers relied on the Continental C-85 engine, mildly uprated and turning faster than it did in Aeronca Champions or Piper Cubs.  Formula E is the first major change and new technology in the field in over 70 years.

With the advent of Air Race E, designers are encouraged to create new machines and rethink the means of propulsion.  At least eight organizations are working on new or re-imagined aircraft, and at least two have new power systems.

Eight Contenders

Team Condor

Since 1979, Andrew Chadwick raced White Lightning, a highly-modified Cassutt aircraft.  He donated the well-traveled airplane to Team Condor, whose leader, Martyn Wiseman and his crew converted it to a “fully-electric racing machine.  Its Contra-Electric twin motors and contra-rotating propellers should be able to pull White Lightning to 300 mph.

Team Condor craft is modified Cassutt racer, popular in Formula 1 competition

University of Nottingham

According to the school, “Richard Glassock is a Research Fellow in Hybrid Electric Propulsion Systems for Aircraft at the University of Nottingham Faculty of Engineering. He is working with Air Race E and leading the project to build the world’s first electric race plane through the University of Nottingham’s Beacons of Future Propulsion program.”  Richard leads Nottingham’s Aerospace Technology Center in the UK as part of its £13M (about 16,640,000 USD) Propulsion Futures Beacons of Excellence research program.  Richard assisted with the development of White Lightning in addition to his academic duties.

Richard Glassock working on Cassutt racer at Nottingham University’s Aerospace Technology Center

Allways Air Racing

Casey Erickson, a Reno Air Race biplane class pilot, is starting with a SnoShoo SR1.1, a conventional Reno racer, modifying the wing to make it faster around the tight turns on the Formula E course, and converting to electric power.  She add the team has “done more computational analysis than probably anyone else has to ensure good air flow and minimal drag for our entire aircraft.”

Team Allways Racing’s Shoshoo SR-1

Blue -BETA Racing

Already flying an electric vertical takeoff and landing machine, Kyle Clark, CEO and chief test pilot of BETA Technologies says, “We see the Air Race E series as a design accelerant that will push the development of advanced concepts while showcasing the amazing engineers and thought leaders working in this space.”  Relying on experts in electric power and composites, his “ground up” design will look almost sailplane-like from the front, taking advantage of the slenderness enabled by electric power plants.

Team Blue-Beta has yet to reveal its e-racer, but it come from the company that produced this eVTOL machine

Team Hangar-1

Asked what might surprise people about his team’s design, the company’s CEO, Adrian Schmer, explains, “The aircraft will get technical features from completely different designs. A glider canopy mixed with a “Pitts” throttle quadrant and tailwheel from inline skates.”

Hangar-1 engine repair in foreground frames Airbus Beluga spacecraft carrier taxiing by

Based at facilities in Oldenburg-Hatten and Leer-Papenburg in northern Germany, Team Hanger-1, named in conjunction with their main sponsor Flugwerft Hangar-1 GmbH, is led by the company’s CEO Adrian Schmer, an SEP and aerobatics instructor.  A team of “self-confessed aviation junkies, ” Eline Tjaden, Chris Höland, Jakob Møller and Ingo Seidl, work on the craft’s development.

Team Möbius

Team Möbius, based in Fort Worth, Texas, is led by Carl Copeland, a serial entrepreneur and CEO of MμZ Motion, a robotics firm.  Their airplane, under development and awaiting a name, will be powered by a new type of smaller, lighter motor.

the Muz Field Modulation Motor promises somewhat unbelievable size and perfromance

Copeland claims their Field Modulation Motor “is constructed of 100% recycled or recyclable materials. Even the magnets will be from reclaimed and recycled materials. The mining, processing and manufacturing of the minerals used in permanent magnets are very energy intensive and toxic to the environment. Our use of recycled material will have a significant impact on the carbon and chemical footprint of the plane. Similar precautions will be taken in the development and use of the batteries and electronics.”

Team NL

“Team NL” from the Netherlands and led by Rick Boerma are a design team made up of university students. They will work from “scratch.”  Rick said, “To design, build, test and fly a new aircraft for the Air Race E next year is going to be a seriously difficult challenge, but one we are ready to take head on. Time is ticking, but we are excited to get started.”

Team NL’s entry is orange, the Netherland’s national color

 Team Outlaw

With pilot and Team Leader Scott Holmes in the cockpit, the Canadians are adapting their 1993 Cassutt to be able to fly with electric power, asking, “Do you think we’ll be able to fit enough batteries under the cowl for 8 laps? Here’s a few of Grepow’s best getting stress tested by the world’s most intelligent (and probably youngest) electric airplane research group in silicon valley.”  The pouch-type cells are otherwise unidentified as to chemistry or output.

Canadian team’s batteries being stress tested

Team Scramasaxe

Based at Aérodrome de Cuers-Pierrefeu in the south east of France, Team Scramasaxe is led by Eric de Barberin-Barberini, a former fighter pilot who has set five aviation world speed records in his aircraft, Shark.

French team’s SCRAMASAXE has tricycle gear with retractable nose wheel

The craft features innovations including a tricycle landing gear incorporating a retractable front wheel, while the air foil will be modified to sustain speeds as high as 500 kilometers per hour.

More to Follow

With eight teams developing new technology to gain the “racer’s edge,” we can expect some exciting outcomes in short order.  We anxiously await what comes next.