Eviation’s Alice and MagniX’s motors got a visit from the Governor of Washington State and the Mayor of Arlington, where the nine-seat airliner is being prepared for its first flight.  Electric aircraft, so far, don’t command that big a portion of the daily press, so it’s heartening to see TV cameras and news reporters turn out.

A photo op in Eviation’s Arlington, Washington hangar documents visit by Washington State Governor Jay Inslee and Arlington Mayor Barbara Tolbert

Eviation shared its take on Facebook.  “We enjoyed hosting @GovInslee and @barbtolbert today for an intimate look as Alice prepares for first flight later this year. They saw first-hand how our growing teams are working to make #electricaviation a reality.”

Governor Jay Inslee was already aware of the work motor company MagniX was doing when he acknowledged the May 28, 2020 flight of a Cessna Grand Caravan.

 “The world’s largest all-electric aircraft took flight yesterday. And it was right here in Moses Lake, WA. Congratulations to @MagniX and all those involved.”  This referenced the Cessna Grand Caravan powered by a Magnix Magni500 motor.

In somewhat of a media turnabout, the Governor interviewed Roei Ganzarski, CEO of magniX and chairman of Eviation’s board of directors.

Commenting further on his airport outing, Governor Inslee posted on Facebook.  “Big day for the clean energy revolution being led by Washington. At the Eviation Aircraft Company in Arlington I toured the production facility for what will soon be the world’s first commercial all electric airplane, a nine seater. In Maltby I toured the Group 14 company which has created a world changing silicon anode battery technology that could increase capacity by 50% in our cars. Clean in the air, clean on the ground.”

What the Governor and Mayor Saw

Most impressively, they gazed upon a sleek aerodynamic shape waiting for its motors.  Janice Podsada of the local Herald Business Journal, reported, “It’s crunch time for Omer Bar-Yohay, CEO and co-founder of Eviation Aircraft, which is developing an all-electric airplane.”  As any home-built airplane maker knows, being 90-percent done means there’s 90 percent left to do”  The “crunch” in this case is mating the motors and batteries to the airframe, connecting and testing miles of wires, and performing ground-based reliability tests on every component.

Ms. Podsada reports, “’Every system and subsystem of the aircraft from structures to electronic performance and the batteries, the motor — all are being tested separately and then they’re tested together for functionality,’ said Bar-Yohay, who studied physics at The Hebrew University in Jerusalem.”

90 percent done, 90 percent to go.  Alice being fitted for what will be a luxury interior

Alice is primarily composite construction weighing a total of 16,500 pounds – 8.200 pounds of which accounted for by two battery packs.  Perhaps because of this, Alice was described by Bar-Yohay as a battery with an airplane painted on it.  And, as engineers will explain, the airplane lands weighing as much as it does when taking off.  Unlike petrol burners, electric airplanes don’t lose the weight of fuel consumed on the journey.  That’s one disadvantage – one perhaps overcome by clever design on aircraft like Alice.

Two crew members and nine passengers will have a nice trip in the 57-foot fuselage, carried aloft on 63-foot span wings, aerodynamically clean without the two wing-tip motors of the original configuration.  The 500-mile cruising range will be covered quickly by the plane’s 287 mph speed.

The Herald explains, “Eviation occupies three hangars at the Arlington Municipal Airport. MagniX is housed in a 40,000 square-foot building in south Everett near Paine Field.”  Only 15.8 driving miles separate the two parties, ensuring ease of communication and on-time delivery of components.

Making Schedules

Getting in the air by the end of the year indicates a little pressure being applied to both manufacturers.  DHL Express has expressed a desire for 12 Alices, set up to carry 2,600 pounds of cargo.  Cape Air, a regional airline has a purchase option for an undisclosed number of aircraft.

Both carriers will appreciate the operating savings possible with electric aircraft.  Bar-Yohay told the Herald, “We estimate it will cost about $250 to $350 per flight hour to operate. A turboprop with similar performance costs between $1,200 and $2,000 per flight hour.”

Pat Anderson of Embry Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) told the Herald, “[Electric flight is] greener. It promises lower emissions and lower noise emissions.  I just think we have to figure out the battery weight issue, and I think that will simply take some time.”

Getting Charged

Clay Lacy Aviation in Van Nuys, California is taking energy saving and clean aviation fuels seriously, switching to things like LED lamps and encouraging the use of Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF).

Eviation announced a partnership with Clay Lacy Aviation to provide electric charging as part of its Fixed Based Operator (FBO) network of services. This partnership, “Will allow for the charging of Alice, its all-electric aircraft, at all Clay Lacy Aviation FBOs in preparation for the plane’s expected entry into service in 2024.”

Rendering of Alice in front of Clay Lacy’s FBO hangar

“In 2020, the company developed a comprehensive sustainability strategy to reduce its carbon footprint and the environmental impact of Clay Lacy Aviation facilities and its clients. Adding charging services for the nine-passenger, two-crew member, emission-free Alice is another step toward the two companies’ shared vision for a sustainable aviation industry.”

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Would an Electric LSA Kit Appeal to You?

Is there a need and desire for an electric light sport aircraft (LSA) kit that is inexpensive to own, operate, and maintain?  Electric flight already offers that possibility, and if kits were available to further lower costs, we could see a new way to achieve low-cost flight.  The LSA designation qualifies a builder to take advantage of LSA’s lighter constraints.

Shown only as an example of a potential kit LSA, Locus was a 2015 concept

A good friend who happens to have designed an electric Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) kit a few years ago let the project lapse because of the need to tend to other business interests.  He wants to know if there’s a market for a new, improved version of his original concept – an electric LSA that would fly for considerably less in operating costs than an internal-combustion model, and that would provide reliable, safe sport flying.  He provided the following survey to the Experimental Aircraft Association, which created the link at the end of this entry.  His comments follow.

Sonex Xenos was converted to eXenos by Gabriel DeVault. Kit aircraft could be a way for enthusiasts to access electric aviation

“This survey is being conducted to assess interest in an Electric Light Sport Aircraft that will be commercially available initially as a home-build kit.

“The aircraft is composed of a lightweight carbon composite material and incorporates many of the latest aerospace technology innovations to make electric flight highly cost-efficient. The Electric Light Sport Aircraft will have up to 2.5-hour endurance, an approximate 200-nautical mile range, and a useful load that allows for two adults on-board while complying with all FAA Light Sport Aircraft Rules. The Aircraft will have a designed takeoff run of 800′ and a landing run of 600’ at sea level, with economy cruise speed of 75 KIAS. The projected direct operating costs will be ~80% less than a typical gasoline powered light sport aircraft and, if equipped with the factory available energy storage device, will cost approximately $11 per flight hour based on national average electricity rates, and will require minimal maintenance.

eGull “Quark” built by Martin Koxxy has been a big hit at Oregon fly-ins. Built from a kit, the design now has several owners who have flown electrically

“The Electric Light Sport Aircraft Kit will be available in several variations depending on the desires of the home-builder and could include enhanced safety options such as a Ballistic Recovery System and advanced designs for battery management and containment. Future feature-development contemplates integrated avionics for collision avoidance, flight envelope exceedance-protection, and other embedded intelligence to ensure safe flight and ‘take me home’ auto-land controls.

“The Electric Light Sport Aircraft Kits will be priced competitively with conventional gasoline powered kit aircraft.”

Electric Light Sport Aircraft Survey

Click on this link to take you to the survey.  The combined wants, needs and collective intelligence of those who seek the future can make this a significant step in the path to green aviation.

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First Flight of Rolls-Royce’s ACCEL Project

Rolls-Royce has made a first test flight of its ACCEL Program’s “Spirit of Innovation,” their 400 kilowatt (500+ horsepower) electric record-seeking craft.  Powered by a stack of three YASA (Yokeless And Segmented Armature) motors, the Spirit flows from Jon Sharp’s NXT design, usually powered by a 540-cubic-inch internal-combustion engine.  The video includes a short nod to Rolls-Royce’s involvement in aviation that leads to the current project.

Rolls announced the successful first flight with an important accomplishment and a hopeful prediction.  “We are pleased to announce the completion of the first flight of our all-electric ‘Spirit of Innovation’ aircraft. At 14:56 (BST) the plane took to the skies propelled by its powerful 400kW electric powertrain with the most power-dense battery pack ever assembled for an aircraft. This is another step towards the plane’s world-record attempt and another milestone on the aviation industry’s journey towards decarburization.”

The flight, made on the 81st anniversary of the Battle of Britain day, acknowledged as the turning point in that great aerial conflict.  It was a reminder that Rolls-Royce powered the Spitfires and Hurricanes that turned back the German assault.  Sent aloft from the UK Ministry of Defence’s Boscombe Down site, managed by QinetiQ, the Spirit flew for approximately 15 minutes.

An Ironic Set of Acquisitions

A note from YASA’s CEO explains the company’s recent acquisition by Mercedes-Benz.  “Operating as a wholly owned subsidiary of Mercedes-Benz, with our own brand, team and facilities, YASA will help to develop pioneering best-in-class electric drive innovations to give Mercedes-Benz exceptional performance in a new electric era.”  This means that a British company, R-R, will fly an American-designed aircraft with a German-owned, Oxford-engineered set of motors.

“The YASA team, all 250 of us, will continue to operate from our HQ and production facility in Oxford, UK and our innovation facility in Welshpool, Wales.”

Spirit of Innovation uses three YASA motors stacked for high-power, high-speed performance

Rolls-Royce’s ownership by BMW and YASA’s by Mercedes further illustrates the now-international nature of once-chauvinistic brands.  No companies seem able to fund the development of new autos or aircraft, among other things.  Look at the opening credits on any recent movie, for instance.  The half-billion dollars required to make the initial Lord of the Rings trilogy, for instance, would have bankrupted many individual firms.  That’s why we see four or more production firms involved in anything bigger than an low-budget “indie” film. Now think of the enormous sums required to produce the next Boeing or Airbus product.

Future Projections

Probable tests for Spirit will include an attack on the electric airplane speed record, which will put NXT in the category of previous records set by the Supermarine S6.b, the Hawker Hurricane and the Spitfire.  Thousands of the latter two were built and both were powered by R-R Merlin and Griffon engines.  Two Merlins propelled each DeHavilland Mosquito, and four graced the wings of each Lancaster bomber.  Rolls-Royce was a large factor in the allied victory.

Two Rolls-Royce motors will grace the wings of this Tecnam product – scheduled for regular service by 2026

Warren East, CEO of Rolls-Royce, said. “The first flight of the ‘Spirit of Innovation’ is a great achievement for the ACCEL team and Rolls-Royce. We are focused on producing the technology breakthroughs society needs to decarbonize transport across air, land and sea, and capture the economic opportunity of the transition to net zero. This is not only about breaking a world record; the advanced battery and propulsion technology developed for this program has exciting applications for the Urban Air Mobility market and can help make ‘jet zero’ a reality.”

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng explained the British government’s interest in a small, electric race plane.  “By backing projects like this one, the Government is helping to drive forward the boundary pushing technologies that will leverage investment and unlock the cleaner, greener aircraft required to end our contribution to climate change.

“The ACCEL program, short for ‘Accelerating the Electrification of Flight’ includes key partners YASA, the electric motor and controller manufacturer, and aviation start-up Electroflight.”

With COP26 (Congress of Parties) slated for November 1 in Glasgow, Scotland, Roll-Royce will be in a good place to extoll the virtues of electric flight and its manifest benefits to the environment.  Rolls will have a good number of products pointing the way in the most existential battle since Word War Two.

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A Pair of Dutch Electric Dragonfly’s

Dragonfly is a great name for the tandem-wing, two-seat aircraft, with the forward wing mounted low and the rear wing higher and behind the cockpit.  Students at InHolland University of Applied Sciences now have two of these anisoptera-like craft they are converting to electric power.  Considering there are only two such airplanes registered in The Netherlands, 100 percent of all Dragonflies in the country will soon be electric.  Over 500 have been completed worldwide in the last four decades.

According to the school, “The airframe design is visually similar to the RAF’s Quickie 2, which was developed independently, but the Dragonfly has larger airfoils and was designed for a smaller engine, resulting in a slower but more docile handling aircraft. Originally 60 hp (45 kW) Volkswagen air-cooled and 85 hp (63 kW) Jabiru 2200 four-stroke powerplants were used with the Dragonfly. With a redesign to a battery-electric variant [Project DragonFly] Inholland and partners want to demonstrate the viability of electrifying existing small aircraft for… general aviation.”  The team has developed two powertrain strategies apparently, visible as a single motor in one version, and a speed-reduced pair of motors in the other.  Motors are supplied by Saluqui.

Combining virtual and real elements, the Delft-based Dragonfly shows single motor, original raw finish.  Note compact arrangement of motor, batteries and associated systems

Oversimplifying a bit, project manager Mark Ommert summarizes the planned strategy.  “The advantage of electric motors is that they are much lighter. In this case, you replace a 100-kilogram motor with one of 15 kilograms.  Then you have the weight of an entire passenger left to spend on your energy source.”  Seemingly simple, this requires some rethinking of weights and balances for the craft, and the need for compact power sources.

Envisioning the New Airplane

To help visualize how those power sources could fit in their re-imagined dragonfly’s, the team used an impressive array of tools to help “see” accurately the dimensions of the aircraft, and then how to distribute the elements of the power train.

The challenge of dealing with complex 40 year old hardcopy drawings was solved by 3D metrology experts from TetraVision, who used advanced 3D scanning technology. This resulted in a six meter by six meter by two meter 3D model of the Viking Dragonfly airplane with 0.1 millimeter accuracy.  This “digital twin” allows for comparison with the actual machine.

TetraVision system scans allowed accurate metrology of entire airplane, to 0.1 mm

Aeronautical Engineering student Kiril Medarov developed a mixed reality application to perform quality checks during manufacturing processes. Able to detect differences between a virtual Dragonfly and the real article allows potential detection of manufacturing alterations or defects.

To enable realistic flight simulation to train potential pilots, Researcher Marco Withag developed a program that will allow them to, “Get used to the flight behavior and onboard systems, before going to take-off in the real Dragonfly.  The flight simulation model can be flown in a virtual reality environment, combined with a motion platform that offers three degrees of freedom. This unique combination offers the pilot the opportunity to see and feel how the aircraft behaves under various pay-load configurations and with electrical powertrains.”

Students taking advantage of full range of computer assistance in project

Flight behavior of the Dragonfly is modeled using PlaneMaker, a development tool provided by Laminar Research, which backs the X-Plane flight simulator series.  X-Plane uses the blade element theory to calculate the forces on the aircraft during flight, according to the Delft team.

Blending It All Together

Modeled and animated in Blender, the free and open-source 3D creation tool can perform, “Modeling, rigging, animation, simulation, rendering, compositing and motion tracking. The model is still under construction but will be available for the public when it is finished, according to the team.

With what appear to be hundreds of students having seen the project and its two exemplars, the program has expanded to include the original donor plane in Delft and the second in Ypenburg, painted in what looks like a homage to Piet Mondrian, the Dutch painter. Two Dutch electric Dragonfly’s may appear at next year’s Paris Air Show.  Arnold Koetje Manager of the Applied Sciences Labs, Inholland in Delft shares that ambition.   “That will be the concept, although we want to be a long way by then.  We also want the aircraft to actually fly by 2023.  Koetje hopes that this can also be an example for the tens of thousands of “sport aircraft” worldwide.

Project goals include making a cleaner, quieter, smarter Dragonfly.  The lessons learned from these two builds and the tools created to make them possible can be applied to other such conversions of other light aircraft.  That’s a gift to all.

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Storedot: Silicon and Tin for a Fast Charge

Storedot is an Israeli battery company with an appealing sales pitch – their batteries can be fully charged in minutes rather than hours.  To make that happen, they are combining silicon, long considered a necessity for high energy density, and a more humble material – tin.

Silicon, tin and other nanoparticles are one factor enabling Storedot’s fast-charging capabilities

Beside the unique material blend, Storedot is working on a 4680 battery (46 millimeters in diameter, 80 in length) equivalent to what Tesla has announced for use in its cars.  Storedot claims 10 minutes for a full charge on an automobile.  They demonstrated the ability to fully charge an electric scooter in five minutes last year.  Autos could have 200 miles added to their batteries in 10 minutes by 2024, based on Storedot’s timeline.

Storedot differentiates between range anxiety, the nervousness caused by wondering if your EV will make it to the next charging station, and charging anxiety, the worry that a charger will not be available when you arrive.  Another anxiety in today’s world is what to do while the car charges – sometimes a seven-course-meal pause – usually in areas where such repasts are not the norm – but guys named Norm are.

Doron Myersdorf, CEO of StoreDot, reflects on the problem.  “The number one barrier to the adoption of electric vehicles is no longer cost, it is range anxiety.  You’re either afraid that you’re going to get stuck on the highway or you’re going to need to sit in a charging station for two hours. But if the experience of the driver is exactly like fueling [a gasoline powered car], this whole anxiety goes away. A five-minute charging lithium-ion battery was considered to be impossible,” he said. “But we are not releasing a lab prototype, we are releasing engineering samples from a mass production line. This demonstrates it is feasible and it’s commercially ready.”

Holding things together, Storedot’s 3D binder restrains silicon swelling during lithiation, necessary because of speed of charging.  The company even claims that their binder enables “self-healing” during expansion and contraction of nanoparticles

To enhance stops at charging stations, Storedot has patented a “boost” program that optimizes a charging station’s ability to keep up with the high-powered batteries’ demands.  “Late last month, StoreDot filed a patent for technology that creates a “booster” feature that allows the battery to analyze the capability of the charging station in real-time and adjust the battery’s ability to carry high current rates. These systems are meant to significantly improve the rate of miles per minute of charging, the company said.”

Finances, Battery Structure, and Chinese Competition

An Australian gentleman styling himself as the Electric Viking discusses the finances necessary to get Storedot’s next best thing in production.  He is dubious that this will be an affordable option for the vast majority.  Instead, he notes this will be high-end technology not unlike the original Tesla car, with the tech finding its way into a broader, less expensive market over time.  Storedot’s choice of relatively inexpensive materials and their insistence that commonly available production lines are all that’s necessary for large-scale commercialization would tend to counter that outlook.

The Viking discusses potential competition from GAC, a Chinese firm with equally profound fast-charging claims and extreme mileage aspirations.  One must remember that another Israeli firm, Phinergy, is also in the fray with new backing from Indian Oil Corporation.  They use an aluminum-water oxidation process to generate electricity for 1,000 kilometer drives.

Better and Better

According to the Times of Israel, “The 4680 format battery will be ready for production at scale in 2024, the company said, as will its first-generation fast-charging pouch cell, also aimed at the EV market. StoreDot is also working on extreme energy density (XED) solid-state technologies, that will allow for longer battery operability and will enter mass production in 2028.”

Storedot’s future plans lead to solid-state 25-miles-per-minute charging rates

A great deal like Tesla, Storedot is going open source, making its production capabilities (but not necessarily its proprietary chemistry) an open book for use by auto makers and other battery firms.  Such tactics have not hurt Tesla’s market standings.

Into an Extreme Future

Storedot is now in Gen 1 development with metalloid compound A-based cells.  Verifying the technology will accompany building manufacturing partnerships and establishing supply chains.

Drone about to land on a fast charging station

Gen 2, set for 2024, will lead to silicon-based extreme fast charging (XFC), with the ability to add 20 miles range for every minute of charging.  By 2028, Gen 3 solid-state-based Extreme Energy Density (XED), will add 25 miles for every minute of charging.

Financial support from strategic investors including BP, Daimler, Samsung Ventures, and TDK will help ensure further exploration of speedier, more energy-dense charging.  Storedot’s willingness to share their technology will benefit the entire industry.

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Wright’s 2 Megawatt Motor

Jeffrey Engler of Wright Electric has huge ambitions, including producing a 186-seat electric airliner and now testing a two megawatt “aviation-grade motor for transport-category zero-emissions aircraft.”  If Engler’s vision becomes reality, “By 2040, Wright will eliminate carbon emissions from all flights under 800 miles.”

Wright’s proposed 186-seat, single-aisle airliner could support 45 percent of all commercial air routes, those 800 miles or shorter

Leap-frogging most other developer’s plans to make 10-, 19-, or even 50-passenger airliners, Wright plans a 186-seat, single-aisle airliner with distributed electric propulsion (DEP), spreading thrust across the wings and tail of the proposed craft

Each motor will produce two megawatts (2,700 horsepower), greater than anything now flying.  When your editor first started writing about this new technology, even model aircraft builders were ganging several small electric motors to produce enough thrust for “3D”-style flight, demonstrating the ability to hover on a propeller in aerobatics.  In 1978, Fred To used four Bosch motors and a single propeller to power his Solar One machine.

In a current perspective, the 2MW is equivalent to 66.66 Aerolite 103 motors, or 34.7 Pipistrel E-811s as installed on Velis’.  Those haul one or two people skyward, respectively on 30 kilowatts (40.2 hp) and 57.6 kW (77 hp) peak outputs.  Ten or so Wright powerplants will levitate 186 passengers with 27,000 combined horsepower.  That would provide over 107 kW (145 hp) per person, exceeding the per-passenger oomph pulling an experimental RV-10 around.

Wright’s motor next to a Coke can for reference.  2,700 horsepower from a package this size is a revolutionary change in how we will power future airliners

Noting that Wright has built this 2 MW motor “alongside contracts from NASA, the US Department of Energy, and US Air Force, and the US Army,” the firm explains it has already tested a complementary high-efficiency inverter.  Wright claims the 2 MW motor is a 2X improvement over megawatt scale motors now being demonstrated and is “designed to be scalable from 500 kW to 4 MW systems.”  According to Wright, “This allows application of the motor up to the single-aisle class aircraft to enable electric and hybrid-electric flight with little to no emissions.”  The 10-motor craft would have power equal to an A320 Airbus.

Beyond that two Wright powerplants could power a 50-seat craft such as an ATR-42 or Dash 8.  The light weight of the power system would be a boon to airlines, enabling such craft to carry “10 more passengers per flight than a plane using other industry motors.”

The motor features 10 kW/kg specific power, a two times improvement over available aircraft motors.  Coupled with a high-performance thermal system, higher voltage operation and an insulation system capable of handling those high voltages, these factors will ostensibly lead to highly-improved performance.

Adding Wright’s high performance inverter (tested separately until now) will allows Wright “to operate at high frequency with low loss.”  Wright’s inverter “uses a novel switching technology which reduces total losses by a factor of two over similarly rated systems.”  Rated at 2 MW with a 300 kilohertz frequency output, the inverter can managed 1,000 Volts.  Equally important in airframe applications, the 20 kW/liter volume equates to a compact inverter.

Integrating the motor and inverter with a suitable battery package, the system will be tested in a high-altitude chamber as part of the drive toward actual flight testing.

According to Jeff Engler, “Experts at NASA, the US Department of Energy, the US Army, and the US Air Force have aided this effort through technical guidance, funding, and standards and regulations support. Organizations like these are leading pioneering efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of aerospace, and we are thrilled to work with them.”  Additional support comes from Swiss airline easyJet and Mexican airline VivaAerobus.   With backing like that and the vision to move forward, Wright Electric might just be onto something.

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Aerolite 103 – As Simple As Aerial EVs Get

Shown and flown at this year’s Sun ‘n Fun and AirVenture, the Aerolite 103 is a well-tested, best-selling ultralight that in FAA Part 103 form is a true ultralight.  As an electric aircraft, it’s heavier and faster than accepted ultralight standards but no less a competent flyer registered in the Experimental category.

Designed in 1996, and with hundreds of the original two-stroke engine-powered versions flying, Aerolite’s originator Terry Raber sold the rights to Dennis Carley in 2012.  Manufacturing moved from Millersburg, Ohio to Delano, Florida.

The airplane retains its position as an inexpensive FAA Part 103-compliant ultralight – true to its name.  In the last few years, it has also become part of zero-emission flight.

Aerolite as an EV

One can only wonder where Gabriel DeVault finds the time.  Currently working in Hollister, California and Cirencester, England on ZeroAvia’s hydrogen-fueled aircraft, Gabriel was also powerplant developer for Zero Motorcycles.  His motors now power several homebuilt aircraft, including his personal eGull (recently sold) and his Sonex eXenos.  Since thousands of Zero bikes are on the road, a large number of “donor-cycles” are available.  Zero Motorcycles won’t talk to you if you mention the word, “airplane,” though.  So, search the used market.

Aerolite’s motor and battery packs

Gabriel designed the motor found on the Aerolite, too, creating a compact outrunner (the rotor spinning on the outside and firmly attached to the propeller).  It puts out about 22 kilowatts (30 horsepower), but likes to produce around 10 to 12 kW for a cruising speed in the mid-forties.  That makes the batteries keep the Aerolite airborne longer, too.

The 103 can carry two, three, or four 36-pound battery packs.  You need a minimum of two for flight, and that gives around 30 minutes of flight time.  Add a third for 45 minutes and a fourth for 60.  A tidy rack under the motor allows easy mounting of the packs.

Aerolite explains, “Our flight testing so far has shown that if you do a full power take off, climb to 700 feet or so, and reduce power to have a cruise speed of 40-45 MPH, you will be able to fly a maximum of approximately 60 minutes with 4 batteries.  If you want to increase your cruise speed to 60 MPH, total flight duration diminishes accordingly.  If you intend to do repetitive take offs and landings in the pattern, total available flight time will also lessen, as the consumption of battery power is disproportionately higher during full power climb (although you do not need full power to climb).”  That’s demonstrated in the Oshkosh video, with owner/pilot Greg in command.

Packs contain 240 Samsung 30Q cells, 20 each in series to obtain 72 Volts and “12 series strings in parallel to achieve the desired capacity.”  Managed by a custom battery management system (BMS) with over- and under-voltage and temperature limits, each pack is “potted,” or encapsulated in a weatherproof poly-urea compound.  They should withstand 500 charge-discharge cycles, giving one flight per day for over a year and a half.  (And seriously, the average light aircraft in the U. S. flies 80 hours per year.)

Gabriel’s 72-Volt motor weighs 30 pounds and “offers ~ 20 kW continuous and up to 25 kW peak power.”  Its low voltage enables it to produce maximum thrust at only 2,000 rpm.  Each battery weighs just under 36 pounds.  A setup with two battery packs and the motor adds 101 pounds to the Aerolite’s airframe.  With three batteries, the complete power system weighs 137 pounds and with four, 173 pounds.

Like the BMS, the motor controller provides over- and under-voltage protection and provides thermal limits for the motor and controller.  It can be connected to a display or an “app” to view EFIS (Electronic Flight Instrument System) information.

Incidentally, the electric power system can be installed on any Aerolite 103.

Gabriel’s Other “Ultralights”

In Europe, all of Gabriel’s E planes, even the “heavy” ultralight, would be classified in the ultralight category.  Clean design is important.  Even though the Aerolite 103 is the lightest, it’s also the draggiest, and used more kW than the eGull, 12 kW to eight or nine for the eGull’s faster cruise.  That’s an important factor for endurance and range and what has held fixed-wing electric aircraft back so far.  The usual complaint is that we need better batteries – some of which are near and promising.  We could see a real expansion of light electric aircraft as that promise comes to fruition.

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Xpeng X1 and X2 Fly in China

A new player in the electric aviation market, Xpeng has introduced a series of electric aircraft, and is currently test flying them.  A relative newcomer to the electric vehicle scene, Xpeng is making inroads with a sport utility vehicle (SUV), its P7 sedan, and its aerial projects.

“Xpeng or Xiaopeng Motors, also known as XMotors.ai, is a Chinese electric vehicle manufacturer. The company is headquartered in Guangzhou, with offices in Mountain View, California in the US and is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange,” as reported by Wikipedia.  Prices in China range from around $23,300 for the G3 to around $50,000 for the P7, claimed to have a range of up to 408 miles.  Both are slated to be competitive with comparable Tesla models.  The company doesn’t seem to be listing prices for their aerial EVs, though.

The X1 Single Seat Multirotor

Neatly covering any rotor noise with Justin Timberlake, Carey Mulligan, and Stark Sands, Xpeng demonstrates a short hop with a tidy single-seat multirotor not unlike Lift’s Hexa.

eVTOL News reports, “The aircraft has a maximum speed of 72 km/h (45 mph) and a range of 30 km (18.5 miles) or 30 minutes, whichever comes first. The original name of the aircraft was the Kiwigogo T-One (was also written as T-1 and A-1) but as of September 2020, the aircraft’s name has been shortened to Kiwigogo. (And since renamed the X1, apparently) The first flight for the aircraft was June 2018.”

The same source provides these specifications:

  • “Aircraft type: eVTOL
  • “Piloting: Piloted or autonomous
  • “Capacity: 1 passenger
  • “Cockpit: Open
  • “Maximum speed of 72 km/h (45 mph)
  • “Range: 30 km (18.5 miles)
  • “Flight time: 30 minutes
  • “Cruise altitude: 16-82 feet (5-25 meters)
  • “Maximum altitude: 3,000 m (9,650 ft)
  • “Maximum take-off weight: 800 kg (1,734 lbs)
  • “Propellers: 8 propellers
  • “Electric engines: 8 electric motors
  • “Electric motor output: 80 kW, each
  • “Windows: Front windshield, sides are open
  • “Landing gear: Skid type landing gear
  • “Safety features: Has multiple redundancy features, advanced flight control to keep the aircraft stable in windy or gusty conditions to ensure safe flight. Distributed Electric Propulsion (DEP), provides safety through redundancy for its passengers and/or cargo. DEP means having multiple propellers and motors on the aircraft so if one or more motors or propellers fail, the other working motors and propellers can safely land the aircraft.”

Eight times 80 kW equals 640 kW total (858 horsepower), which seems a little overwhelming for such a craft.  That may account for the gross weight, probably necessary to carry the batteries for a half-hour’s endurance.

A Two-seater with Greater Speed and Endurance

Again, specifications come from eVTOL News:

  • “Aircraft type: eVTOL multicopter
  • “Piloting: Autonomous
  • “Capacity: 2 passengers
  • “Maximum speed: 130 km/h (81 mph)
  • “Flight Time: 35 minutes
  • “Cruise altitude: 300-500 m (984-1,640 ft)
  • “Empty weight: 360 kg (794 lb)
  • “Maximum takeoff weight: 560 kg (1,235 lb)
  • “Propellers: 8 propellers
  • “Electric Motors: 8 electric motors
  • “Power source: Batteries
  • “Fuselage: Carbon fiber composite
  • “Windows: Canopy over cockpit
  • “Landing gear: Fixed skid landing”
  • Safety Features are as described for the X1.

The fifth generation of “flying cars” from Xpeng Huitian, the Voyager X2 is “being tested in extreme environment,” including, “high altitudes over cities like Xining and Yushu, Northwest China’s Qinghai province.”

Empty weight ostensibly includes batteries, making for a somewhat confusing comparison with the single-seater.  With two on board, all-up weight is close to Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) restrictions and about 400 pounds less than the X1.  It also claims an extra five minutes endurance

Capable of two “driving” modes, manual and autopilot, the “autopilot function can operate an automatic flight according to a predetermined altitude, speed, and flight time along a planned route.

With offices in Silicon Valley, a move toward our shores seems likely.  We can hardly wait for the competition to begin and our questions to be answered.

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Sion Power’s EV Battery

Sion Power’s EV Battery

400 Watt-hours per kilogram is a long-awaited minimum expectation for what it will take to get electric aviation off the ground.  Sion Power® of Tucson, Arizona will introduce its Licerion® 17 Amp-hour pouch cells at the Battery Show North America in September – claiming to fulfill that expectation.  The large-format pouch cells come in a compact 810 Watt-hours per liter size, last over 800 cycles and can be charged to 80-percent of their rated capacity in 15 minutes, according to Sion.

Sion Power is shifting from its lithium-sulfur chemistry to lithium-metal technology.  Their Li-S cells powered Airbus’ Zephyr® 7 HAPS (High Altitude Pseudo Satellite) to a record for continuous flight.  According to Tucson Tech, “In 2014, lithium-sulfur batteries custom-made by Sion helped power Airbus’ Zephyr 7 solar-electric unmanned plane to fly for 11 days on sun power during the day and battery power at night.”

From Lithium-Sulfur to Licerion®

In a paper on the subject, Sion Power explains its change from lithium-sulfur to its current approach.  “However, even with this success, Sion Power was aware of an intrinsic weakness with Li-S that limited its usefulness for most applications. In 2015, Sion Power began research and development work on its next-generation rechargeable cell that overcame the limitations of Li-S.

Cross section of Licerion cell includes lithium metal anode, and a lot of proprietary materials

Sion has created three levels of protection for safe storage of energy, as reported in GreenCarCongress.com.

·         At the cell-level, electrolyte additives chemically stabilize the anode surface to enhance cycle life and increase energy. The cells do use a liquid electrolyte; however, the amount is negligible compared to traditional Li-ion cells.

·         The lithium metal anode is physically protected by a thin, chemically stable, and ionically conductive ceramic polymer barrier.

·         The pack incorporates proprietary cell compression and an advanced battery management system (BMS).

Intelligent BMS

Licerion battery packs include many safety features and an intelligent battery management system.

Using Licerion cells, Sion Power’s modular design simplifies connection and configuration of battery packs “for a wide variety of applications.”  The battery management system (BMS) includes cell balancing, discharge circuit control, state of charge (SoC), and state of health (SoH) estimation, and CAN 2.0 communication.

Standard safety features include Sion Power’s cell compression system, probably similar to other such systems that physically compress pouch cells for improved performance.  Electrical safety measures include over-charge and over-discharge protection, over-temperature protection, and over-current protection.  Each module is equipped with fuses and switches, and custom containment enclosures are available.

Competition

It will be of interest to see if Sion Power or Northvolt come to market with their battery systems soon, and how soon we will see them in actual EVs, including aircraft.  Fully available batteries at reasonable prices and with high levels of safety are essential to the future of electric flight.

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Ampaire Flies in the UK

Having completed a series of successful island-hopping flights in Hawaii, and in Scotland, Ampaire is now in Exeter, England taking part in a government-backed program, “Aimed at moving the UK towards green aviation.”  Test Pilot Eliot Seguin has moved from his Mojave, California base to take part in the endeavor, joined by fellow test pilot Justin Gillen.

Drawing a Crowd

A large contingent of dignitaries attended the inaugural takeoff of Ampaire’s electric EEL, their modified Cessna 337 Skymaster.  These included Baron Martin Callanan, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Minister for Business, Energy and Corporate Responsibility at the Department for Business, Energy and Industry Strategy.

Ampaire taxiing on Orkney airfield before flying south to Cornwall in England

He shared a realistic appraisal of the new technology.  “Nobody is pretending we will be flying over the Atlantic any time soon but for short hops between two regional airports this is absolutely ideal.”

Susan Ying,  Senior Vice President of Global Partnerships and recently seen on the PBS program “The Great Electric Airplane Race,” said the hope is flights will soon be able to operate from regional airports across the UK.

“If you can scale this up for more seats in the future, it will mean that you can serve these regional airports for shorter journeys really well.”

“It will let people fly point to point really so efficiently so it will be operating at a competitive price range.”

Photo by Theo Moye 24/08/21 Ampaire, a leader in electric aviation, together with its key partners in the Government-backed Towards Zero Emissions in Regional Aircraft Operations (2ZERO) consortium demonstrate their modified hybrid electric six-seat Cessna 337 Skymaster at Exeter Airport.

“The airport already benefits from using solar energy and this is the next logical step towards greener flight in the UK.”  Cornwall is site to a great many wind farms and solar projects.

Graeme Scrimgeour, commercial estates manager at Cornwall Airport Newquay, added a note about the existing clean energy base.  “By basing an electric aircraft at Cornwall Airport Newquay, part of the energy used to charge the aircraft batteries will be generated by the adjacent solar farm owned by Cornwall Council.

The flight demonstrations are being conducted under projects funded by the UK government’s Future Flight Challenge.

Test Pilot Elliot Seguin stands with Electric EEL (its name comes from flipping its three last registration characters) on Exeter Airfield

Ampaire test pilot Elliot Sequin added, “The EEL flies very much like a conventional aircraft, with some new instrumentation for power management. said  We have flown it nonstop from Los Angeles to San Francisco and now the length of the UK without any difficulty. It is the forerunner of a new generation of efficient aircraft that will be easy to fly for pilots and cost effective for airlines.”

 Ampaire Ltd heads a UK-based consortium created to explore paths toward zero-emission transportation.  2ZERO (Towards Zero Emissions in Regional Aircraft Operations) involves the operation of hybrid electric aircraft on regional routes in South West UK, together with a study of the ecosystem required to enable the future of electric aircraft within existing airport and airline operations.

The 2ZERO bid was submitted by Ampaire Ltd and partners including Exeter Airport, Rolls-Royce Electrical, University of Nottingham, Loganair Ltd, Cornwall Airport Ltd, Heart of the Southwest Local Enterprise Partnership (HotSWLEP), and UK Power Networks Services.

If successful, it is hoped the project – which has received £30million worth of funding – will help to reduce emissions.

Lord Callanan concluded that, “The trials were “part of a range of technologies that we think will make a contribution to ‘Jet Zero’, which is sustainable aviation in the UK by 2040.”

“Aviation is something like 2-percent of worldwide emissions. So it’s something we do have to decarbonize alongside industry, alongside heating, alongside vehicles as well.”

Spreading the Word

Cory Combs, one of the founders of Ampaire, surprises by explaining his hatred of flying, but his hopes for electric aviation.

Incidental Note

Your editor’s father served at Newquay during WWII as a crew chief on B-17s and C-47s. It’s a lovely site for a flight test area.

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