Sunseeker Duo has a New Radio and Big Plans

Touring on Sunbeams

Eric and Irena Raymond have an enviable life, traveling on sunbeams across Europe in their Sunseeker Duo, and if plans go well later this year, into northern Africa and beyond.  “Last summer, we flew down the west coast of Italy, landing on the islands of Elba and Corsica.”  Crossing the Mediterranean would be no major impediment to further travel, as Solar Impulse showed, because, “Being solar powered our airplanes are assured a constant supply of energy by flying over the clouds, and we can cover much greater distances.”

Duo circling over the island of Elba, where Napoleon was exiled in his final years.  The range of history Eric and Irena share in their craft is impressive

This summer will expand their itinerary to, “Starting in Italy and flying down the Dalmatian coast of Croatia, starting by exploring the Istria peninsula, then touring the myriad countless islands of this Adriatic archipelago.  No goal is set, other than returning to our home base in Osoppo (Italy). At least as far as Split should be easy.”  Split, on the west coast of Croatia, includes the palace of Roman Emperor Diocletian, a UNESCO World Heritage site still looking good after nearly two millennia.

“Later in the summer we plan another trip into Germany, visiting team members and friends in Isny and Schwabisch Hall.”

They have even grander plans later in the year, hoped for but somewhat tenuous.  “After the summer flying season, we plan to display the Sunseeker Duo at the Expo 2020 in Dubai and fly it at the Dubai airshow in November.  After Dubai, we would ship the Sunseeker Duo to the island of Cyprus, and from there fly it back to our base in Italy, across Turkey, Greece, and the Balkan states.”

Averted Recognition

A few things impinge on those hopes.  Even though he flew Sunseeker 1 across the United States in 21 hops in 1990 and Sunseeker 2 over the Alps between Germany and Italy in 2009, fate or politics seem to deny Eric the full recognition he deserves. When he landed at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina after an epic trip across the country, his photo op was overshadowed by our invasion of Kuwait.  This was 23 years before Solar Impulse made the second solar-trans-continental flight.

Eric hopes to participate in the World Air Games this year in Dubai, and while still in negotiations with the organizers, is not yet assured of an opportunity.  He had won a Gold Medal, First Place for the Best Experimental Aircraft at the 2009 event, but has not yet been invited back.  It seems the person who hosted him originally had not followed Fédération Aéronautique Internationale policy.

Note black line along leading edge of right wing. On end, GoPro camera records adventures

He has tried four more times to attend the games.  In his less than objective view, Your Editor would think the WAG and the Dubai Air Show would be delighted to have a world-class example of a highly advanced aircraft that uses no fuel.  Only Solar Impulse has anywhere near the hours of sun-powered flight accumulated by Eric and Irena – and it requires a significant support team to keep it aloft.  The Raymonds manage their trips on their own – the ultimate in self-sufficient, planet-saving travel.

Eric explains a few quirks that stand in the way.  “It is interesting to study the FAI policies in this field.  Although solar powered airplanes started flying in 1979, no World Records were issued, not even in 1981, when the Solar Challenger flew from Paris to London, without any batteries.  So, no ambiguity there, but it took the FAI until 2010 to finalize the rules for this new class.

“About the Expo 2020 in Dubai; Most of the pavilions are national.  Some countries even get free pavilions, provided by the hosts in case they cannot afford them.

“Our airplanes have no nation.”

Sunseekers  and Photography

Even a “mediocre” day for soaring enables a solar-powered flight to gliding site 22 kilometers (13.7 miles) from the Duo’s home base.  The landing here at the Zampieri glider strip is cleverly recorded, with the camera mounted on a shaft extended from the point about 2/3 span where the wing planform sweeps back.  One can see the mounting point, but the Raymonds use digital editing skills to remove the shaft from view, giving a unique point of view to their shots.

Eric explains the special nature of the Duo. “The Sunseeker Duo is Solar Flight’s third original solar powered airplane design and first two seat airplane. It has a wingspan of 22 meters; an empty weight of 280 kg and 1510 solar cells with 23 [percent] efficiency. The Duo remains the only two-seat true solar powered airplane which has demonstrated the ability to fly on direct solar power. It has logged now many hundreds of hours flying around Europe, and introduced many passengers the unique experience flying with nature’s unlimited source of power.”

Who wouldn’t want such a machine at their air show?

And a Closing Word from Their Sponsor

Eric has managed to appear in a Skype commercial, communicating from the Duo’s cockpit.  His and Irena’s footage appears in GoPro ads.  The couple needs this support for their efforts.  In this vein, “Solar Flight Inc has announced a new equipment sponsor, Becker Avionics from Germany.

Becker radio and transponder enable Duo to comply with air traffic control almost everywhere.  Electronics on board overall advanced nature of craft

“The Sunseeeker Duo is already equipped with a Becker transponder, but our long distance adventures in 2020 showed us that we need the best possible communications radio, for contact with air traffic control.  These ATC stations are often in cities far away, such as Vienna, Padova, or Zurich. By flying high enough over the mountains we can maintain line of sight contact and gain permission to use higher airspace under radar control.

Duo taking off from Enemonzo. Note nearly dry river

Being solar powered our airplanes are assured a constant supply of energy by flying over the clouds, and we can cover much greater distances.  Therefore a completely reliable communication equipment is essential, and Solar Flight is confident that Becker Avionics’ well-proven equipment is the best available on the market.”

(Editor’s Note: the blog does not endorse products, and in this instance, is merely passing along Eric’s report.)

Eric closes, “Stay tuned to Solar Flight’s social media pages to see where we are, or use flight radar software to follow N488HR, and contact Solar Flight if you would like to arrange a visit to experience a vision of the future of sport flying.”

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A Year of Recognition

Pipistrel celebrates the one-year anniversary of type certification for its Velis Electro.

Pipistrel’s Velis Electro is the only certified two-seat electric trainer in the world

In a press release, Taja Boscarol, Co-owner, Head of PR, and Co-director of Pipistrel d.o.o. (equivalent to a limited liability corporation in America), notes the Velis Electro remains the only type-certified electrically powered airplane in the world.  Recipient of the first such recognition for a battery-powered aircraft, the Velis has received other accolades.

Recognition includes a 2020 Plane of the Year award from Plane & Pilot magazine, along with the Epic E1000, a very different craft. The magazine lauded the Velis Electro’s unobtrusive nature, both in noise and emissions.  “We’re making a lot of noise about this plane, true, and that’s a bit out of place for the Velis Electro, which at certification became the quietest powered trainer in the skies. And as much talk as there is on the politics of emissions and the problem of our leaded fuel, the Velis produces zero emissions and is incredibly quiet, both qualities that will help propel light aviation deep into the millennium.”

Its lower noise has enabled flight schools and flying clubs in locations including aerodromes with nearby populations such as Toussus and Noble in France to now resume even weekend flying.  Expanded time for instruction and operations will make flight schools more profitable and provide added opportunities for bring more people into the green aviation community.

Certified Velis Electro includes certified E-811 motor, another world first

Taja explains, “The simplicity of operation and drastically reduced maintenance of the electrical powerplant translates into lower operating costs and therefore cheaper flight hour costs.”  Again, this provides greater opportunities for bringing more people into aviation as a recreation.

Emissions, something that can’t be ignored with conventional aircraft, are a major problem for those living near airports.  One woman who lives near your editor has made it her crusade to eliminate air traffic around the Hillsboro, Oregon airport (HIO).  She cites the use of 100-octane low-lead fuel as a pollution hazard for people living nearby.  Despite its understandable annoyance for small aircraft pilots, her point is well taken.  Pollution, along with noise, will be a determining factor in whether our aircraft are able to use local fields.

As with all electric aircraft, Taja points out, “Emissions can be cut practically to zero, especially when electricity is generated from renewable sources.  This is the case of the aerodromes of Fribourg-Ecuvillens in Switzerland and Aix Les Milles in southern France, which implemented solar energy chargers for electric aircraft and have recently become the home bases of their first Velis Electros.  Each Velis Electro, compared to emissions from conventional two-seat trainers, elimates pollution from burning 20 kilograms (44 pounds or 7.33 gallons per hour).

Numbers and Achievements

Produced at a current rate of five per month, six Electros have been ordered by Pipistrel’s “launch customer,” the French Aeronautical Federation (FFA).  Green Aerolease has an additional 50 on order, plus 150 on option.

Alpin Airplanes, a Swiss flight training operation (FTO) flies 13 so far in 10 FTOs, averaging about 150 flight hours per month.  Rapid accumulation of flight hours will help sell more electric Pipistels, already popular in nine countries, including Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.  The entire fleet has logged over 1,500 hours, saving 94,000 kilograms of CO2 from being dispersed into the atmosphere compared to “older gas-guzzling trainers.”

Airport infrastructures will change as more electric aircraft come into play. This will unleash disruptive forces

Over 200 pilots have received their endorsements to fly the Velis Electro.  29 pilot instructors are approved to train on the aircraft.  27 Part-66  licensed  mechanics from nine Part-145 maintenance organizations have been trained to maintain and repair the Velis Electro.

Perhaps a sign of future interest from other governments, two Velis Electros will be leased by the  Danish Defense arm, making them the first air force to operate electrically powered aircraft.

Velis  Electros have been flown in two record-breaking adventures – a major achievement for a new aircraft.  The Electric World Record Flight by Swiss aviators managed to set five of the seven records the pilots intended.

Elektropostal is a homage to the brave pilots who pioneered Aeropostale’s routes in the 1920s.  This year’s flight will connect France and North Africa, the final destination being Casablanca.

Pipistrel’s Velis Electro has become a big hit, and with manufacturing in Slovenia, Italy and China, could end up being the essential trainer for future pilots

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Two Similar eSTOLs

Two different but very similar electric Short Take Off and Landing (eSTOL) aircraft from two different companies are making progress toward realization.  Both are products of teams originally committed to electric Vertical Take Off and Landing (eVTOL) designs, so the shift to different configurations is of interest.  eVTOLs are limited in range by the need to lift their entire weight on their rotors – some for the totality of the flight.  eSTOLs use aerodynamics to enable longer range, and with high-lift devices, can use small fields from which to operate.

Pocket airpark could fit in city block, enable neighborhood access to eSTOL flights

Dr. Brien Seeley, head of the Sustainable Aviation Foundation, has been a long-time proponent of what he called “pocket airparks.”  These neighborhood or urban sites would be contained within roughly one-block perimeters, use aircraft capable of extremely short takeoffs and landings, low noise, and quick turnarounds.  Electric aircraft and their quiet operation would allow placing such airparks in more areas and could make access to air travel as common as hopping on a local bus.

“Airflow and Ravn Alaska Ink Deal for 50 Carbon-Neutral eSTOL Aircraft”

Ravn Alaska currently flies DeHavilland Dash 8s, 37-passenger twin turboprops.  Service to their dozen destinations is somewhat irregular, probably because filling the airplane for flights to such isolated locations would be spotty at best.  Smaller eSTOLs will enable greater flexibility, the airline noting the advantages.  “Ravn will benefit from lower operating costs, reduced noise signatures, and increased routes with new aircraft using electric propulsion technology.”

To enable that greater flexibility, Airflow Aero announced a letter of intent with Ravn to supply 50 eSTOL aircraft.  Airflow now has over $200 million in orders.  This will enable Ravn to better serve its customers, according to CEO Rob McKinney.  “As a regional operator, we are committed to serving the many large and small communities of Alaska. That means we are constantly seeking out new ways to deliver the best value and experience for Alaskans.  With Airflow, we benefit from the new capabilities the aircraft offers that open up new and different destinations, the constantly improving efficiencies of electrification, and alignment between our fleet and the rising demands of our customers to travel with the smallest carbon footprint possible.”

Airflow in Ravn livery, cargo configuration

The eight-motor, single-pilot, seven-passenger aircraft will be able to fly from the shortest runways and with enough range to serve all of Ravn’s remote destinations.  It will also be able to carry enough cargo to be useful in supplying those destination.

Tom Hsieh,President of Ravn Alaska, and Marc Ausman, CEO of Airflow move aviation into the future

Marc Ausman, CEO and co-founder of Airflow, adds, “At Airflow, we’re partnering with companies that seek to add new aircraft with new capabilities to their fleets that are flexible, cost-effective, and carbon-neutral.”  Because of their STOL capabilities, Airflow’s craft need no new infrastructure and present few “hurdles” to certification.  Their hybrid power system enables long enough endurance to serve all of Ravn’s existing routes.  “Future aircraft models from Airflow will feature autonomous systems to further improve cost efficiency and safety.”  These will include a system dubbed a “Virtual Tailhook,” something tested on a scale model and soon on a Cessna 210 demonstrator.  This will enable pilots to “nail” landings as though they had snagged arresting cables across a flight deck.

Electra.Aero’s First Commercial Product

Electra.aero unveiled its first commercial product to serve regional air mobility markets. Like the Airflow eSTOL, it’s, “Designed to carry up to seven passengers and a pilot as far as 500 miles while operating out of areas shorter than a soccer field, including rooftops and parking lots. Electra’s ‘blown lift’ technology – where the electric motor-driven propellers blow air over the entire span of the wing and its flaps – allows safe, energy-efficient takeoff and landings at speeds below 30 mph while cruising at high-speeds of 200 mph.”

“Blown lift,” according to electra.aero’s web site, “is a special aerodynamic technique that tricks the wing into thinking it’s much bigger than it really is. It’s been used in other niche markets in the past but combined with distributed electric propulsion, blown lift is now super efficient and practical for wider applications.”

Coming on the end of John Langford’s previous eVTOL project, Electra.aero’s new machine is a product of realizations about vertical flight.  “In all the work we did on eVTOL aircraft, I kept coming up with answers about the cost that showed that very short takeoff and landing concepts would have significantly lower costs, and that actual vertical takeoff and landing performance is only required in a narrow set of circumstances and that in most locations space [for STOL operations] is available.”

“Electra’s hybrid-electric super-short takeoff and landing aircraft shown here has a wingspan of 48 feet and carries up to seven passengers plus a pilot. The aircraft has 8 electric propellers driven by a hybrid-electric powerplant. This allows the plane to operate out of soccer fields and other constrained spaces like rooftops and parking lots while flying at ranges up to 500 miles. The aircraft is planned to enter commercial service by 2027.”  Electra.Aero caption

The single-pilot aircraft’s eight electric motors are powered by a combination of batteries and a small, quiet turbogenerator.  This means the aircraft does not need to rely on a special charging infrastructure – the batteries are recharged mid-air. Because the airplane carries a smaller battery pack than an eVTOL of similar performance and capacity, Electra’s aircraft provides more room for passengers and cargo.  This results in superior operating economics and minimizes energy consumption.

As with Airflow’s early trials, Electra.aero will rely on a “technology demonstrator.”  To evaluate “optimum short-field performance,” the sub-scale demonstrator will array eight 30 kilowatt (40.2 horsepower) along the leading edge of the wing, and charge batteries with a 100 kilowatt (134 horsepower) engine.  Propellers will be “slow spinning, non-variable pitch.”  Of course, the full-scale aircraft will have a more powerful system.  Langford even sees future possibilities of a 40-passenger model for inter-urban travel.

The initial design could support, “A variety of advanced air mobility missions, including air taxi operations, freight delivery, and logistics in urban, suburban, and rural environments. Its fixed landing gear is being designed for use on unprepared landing strips.”  As your editor has noted before, this would be a great deal like William T. Piper’s vision of a network regional airports, simple strips serving small towns and village in a more rural setting.

Two companies, both changing direction from eVTOLs to eSTOLs make for an interesting vision of rooftop airports and neighborhoods landing zones.  This would certainly make air transport more accessible to millions.

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Icarus Cup 2021, Cross-Channel Race 2022

The British Human Powered Flying Club has huge ambitions for 2022, with its race across the English Channel and a 50,000-Pound ($70,800) grand prize.  This year, though, “We are pleased to announce that we have chosen Lasham Airfield as the venue for the 2021 Icarus Cup, taking place on 24th July – 1stAugust!”  Great to see again, these Human Powered Airplanes (HPAs) are marvels of aerodynamics and human endurance and have a grand history.  This year’s event, following a virus-caused hiatus, will be a welcome re-introduction to the most personal form of flight.

Some Openings for New Talent

The Club explains, “This year’s competing teams have been notified of the venue details already.  We are currently in the process of arranging marquees.”

Those who wish to apply for membership in the BHPFC can submit an application and dues here.  You, too, could be pedaling above Lasham this year (not likely) or crossing the Channel next year in an airplane with the span of a 737 and that weighs less than half the paint job on the big bird.  Because of the hazards involved, the Club will accept only those entrants with previous HPA experience.

BHPFC organizers suggest you contact them at: “Our website,  our Facebook page: or the HPA subreddit,

Design and Determination

2019 at Lasham was eventful, with the first public demonstration of HPA flight around a triangle.  This is an Olympic level of athletic achievement because of the extra power needed to overcome the added drag of even a shallow bank.  The 2,636-meters (8648.294-feet or 1.638 mile) trip took six minutes and 22 seconds.  Kit Buchanan, aloft in the John Edgley-designed Aerocycle 301, had to maintain about 300 Watts (a little over 0.4 horsepower) for the entire course, and maybe double that to take off.

The English magazine Flyer has an excellent article on Airglow, another of the leading designs in the HPA world.  It details the technical aspects of HPAs and highlights the difficulties of flying such creations.

John Boyce writes about the difficulties and hazards involved in even the simplest maneuver.  “Turning is very slow in Airglow with a turn radius of around 100 meters. If you bank too hard you will never recover, the inboard wing will stall and dump you on the ground. Crosswind gusts can easily put you in this situation too. Airglow suffered major damage once due to a cross-gust, the pilot narrowly escaping injury.”

Airglow with chase bike, showing common heritage of these two types of machines

Considering it has been 42 years since Bryan Allen pedaled across the Channel, university and private groups appear to be working toward duplicating or besting that effort.  Seeing the flexing on the Aerocycle though, one cannot help bu wonder how designers will achieve a strength level that allows flight beyond the early morning and twilight runs that limit HPA’s utility.  Certainly all but the calmest days on the Channel include lots of cross-gusts.

Pedelecs of the Skies?

Your editor has pursued the idea of combining electric flight with HPAs for several years.  It would take some strengthening of the airframes and the inclusion of a one or two-kilowatt motor, controller and small battery pack to augment the best efforts of the human motor/pilot.

Solar Albatross flew on model airplane electric motor powered by low-efficiency solar cells mounted above craft. 1979 flight took place on Rogers Dry Lakebed at Edwards, California.

Span loading, the weight carried by each foot of wing span, is important for low-powered craft – and HPAs are the lowest powered.  Don Crawford’s book, A Practical Guide to Airplane Performance and Design, list Gossamer Albratross’ span loading as only 2.1 pounds per foot carrying a very light Bryan Allen.  The more aerodynamically clean Aerocycle carries 2.82 pounds per each of its 78.74 feet of span.  Both fly on far less than a kilowatt of power, so a small model motor helping the large, slow-turning propellers would be a significant boost to takeoff and climb performance.  There could be an entirely different class of aircraft what would provide extremely low-cost recreational flying for the majority of us who are not professional athletes.

In the meantime, if possible, make it to Lasham to see the dream-like flights this year, and to the Dover coast in 2022 to see the pilots take off for France.

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Oxis Battery Lost, Other Batteries Found?

Announcing pending bankruptcy last week, Oxis Energy surprised those of us who did not see the impending problem.  One major supporter of Oxis is George Bye, because his eFlyer line of aircraft were all slated to fly on their power.  Contacted through company Vice President Diane Simard, Bye issued the following statement: “Bye Aerospace’s eFlyer 800 program remains on track,” said George E. Bye, CEO of Bye Aerospace. “We continue to support Oxis Energy, their lithium-sulfur cell technology, leadership, team and owners. These types of transitions occur in every industry.”  Other batteries may wait in the wings, so to speak.

eFlyer 800 as configured with L3Harris for “mult-mission” tasks

Oxis prefaced its web site with the following announcement: “OXIS Energy Limited is in administration.  Simon Girling and Christopher Marsden were appointed Joint Administrators of the Company on 19 May 2021. Simon Girling is authorized to act in the UK as an Insolvency Practitioners by the Insolvency Practitioners Association. Christopher Marsden is authorized to act in the UK as an Insolvency Practitioner by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. The Joint Administrators act as agents to the Company and contract without personal liability.”

This could be a significant blow to Bye Aerospace, which has eFlyers 2, 4, 800 and a joint venture with L3Harris Technologies, “To develop an all-electric, multi-mission aircraft that will provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities for domestic and international ISR mission operators.”  Texas Colt Aircraft also planned on using Oxis battery packs in its electric version of its Light Sport Aircraft.

eFlyer 2 parts are being molded at Warren, Oregon by Composites Universal Group, which has also made parts for SpaceX, Airbus’s A3 Vahana, and others.

Texas Colt may also be in holding pattern awaiting new battery developments

A June 9 deadline for bidding on Oxis patents allows a chance for cash-flush hopefuls to gain a technological advantage.  Future Flight reports, “’The company was unable to secure the investment required to continue its product development,’ said BDO business restructuring partner Simon Girling. ‘However, we are hopeful of obtaining a sale of the company’s specialist testing equipment, together with approximately 200 patents held by the company, and the opportunity remains for an acquirer to purchase these assets in situ at an internationally acclaimed Testing Centre, and separate research and development facility.’”

This could be a lucrative opportunity for investors.  Earlier this year, Oxis had announced testing of cells that stored 471 Watt-hours per kilogram, and planned on demonstrating cells holding 550 W-hrs/kg by 2023.  Their lithium-sulfur chemistry has the added benefit of being non-flammable.

 Other Opportunities for Hope

Oxis itself may find some form of economic salvation.  With 43 patent families available, dedicated testing equipment, and an established manufacturing site, Oxis assets may be a tempting buy for others.  But the downside may be that the assets are not picked up as an integratable whole.

Other Possibilities

AMAPOLA

AMAPOLA (A Marketable Polymer-based Al-S battery) project combines abundant (and therefore inexpensive) ingredients.  The goal is to achieve “greater energy storage capabilities” at a lower price than current lithium-ion cells.  Aluminum and sulfur make an energy dense combination, with “prospective values for energy density” of 660 Watt-hours per liter and specific energy of 400 Watt-hours per kilogram at the cell level.  That’s the level which Elon Musk has proclaimed will be a floor for aircraft power.

It’s not a solid-state battery, though, “Taking advantage of the incorporation of innovative polymer gel electrolytes (PGEs) based on novel highly conductive and inexpensive deep eutectic solvents (DES) for a cheaper, lighter, tougher and safer battery concept.”

A Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) Proactive Project, AMAPOLA is funded under the EIC (European Innovation Council) Transition to Innovation Activities, building on a previous project called SALBAGE (Sulfur-Aluminum Battery with Advanced Polymeric Gel Electrolytes).  Those controlled-phase gel electrolytes, derived from a “highly conductive novel DES (Deep Eutectic Solvent) would, “Achieve high sulfur loading and high sulfur utilization in the cathode in combination with new promising redox mediators; and strategies to overcome the presence of oxide layer in the aluminum anode.”

The AMAPOLA consortium is coordinated by HEMPOL group (ICTP-CSIC) and includes researchers from University of Leicester, Graz University of Technology (TUGraz), University of Southampton and Technical University of Denmark (DTU), the battery company Varta Microinnovation and the SME Tech2Market.

A Poppy and a Song

Merely as an historical aside, Amapola is also a 1942 hit song by Jimmy Dorsey and his orchestra, probably taken from the name of a poppy flower.

Licerion Cells from Sion Power

Sion Power has the advantage of having developed and flown early lithium-sulfur batteries on record-breaking High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) flights.  The firm developed its Licerion Lithium-Metal Technology to overcome the shortcomings of Li-S cells, such as low energy density (Wh/L) and cycle life.  Note the flight described here took place with 2014 battery chemistry.

Early lithium metal anodes were subject to dendrite growth, that toothy problem that punched holes in cell components and led to short circuits and fires.  Their new cells and battery packs employ a tri-fold protection plan to prevent those earlier problems.  “Sion Power has successfully overcome the issues that plagued historical lithium metal chemistries by developing a multi-faceted approach to protecting the lithium metal anode. Sion Power has developed three levels of protection to enable its Licerion lithium metal batteries — chemical and physical protection within the cell, and physical protection at the pack level.

“With the patented protected lithium anode (PLA) technology, the lithium metal anode is physically protected by a thin, chemically stable, and ionically conductive ceramic polymer barrier. 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. Finally, the pack incorporates proprietary cell compression and an advanced battery management system (BMS).”  The company claims up to 1,000 charge-discharge cycles for their batteries.

Sion Power’s large format cells are achieved by “by stacking electrodes with an approximate size of 100 mm x 100 mm on pilot systems.”

As of March 4, they are promoting a new Licerion Large Format 17 Amp-hour, 400 Watt-hour per kilogram cell.  The cells, especially designed for electric vehicle applications, are now being validated by third parties.  Sion hopes for wide-spread distribution of their batteries by 2022.

Dr. Urs Schoop, Chief Technology Officer for Sion Power, explains, “Less than a year ago, Sion Power had demonstrated this technology on a 1.8 Ah cell. Today we have proven the results on large format cells.  Although we have seen many high-energy battery companies in the news, few of them claim to produce cells in high-capacity commercial sizes.”

Future Hopes

Some shocks to the economic system can cause us to look at new possibilities for answers.  Let’s hope, despite the loss of Oxis Energy, that we can see hope in alternatives.

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Valuable Materials and Fuels from Trash

The Earth we inhabit struggles in an ever-tightening race between being overcome with its own trash and cleaning up after itself.  Two stunning approaches to turning trash and waste into valuable materials and fuels could help us win that race.

Graphene Dreams in a Flash

Bigthink.com leads with the news that, “Graphene typically costs $200,000 per ton. Now, scientists can make it from trash.”  This “insanely useful” product is difficult to produce, making it a luxury for many applications – until now.

Graphene is insanely useful, but very difficult to produce — until now.  Dr. James Tour and his Rice University students have created a way to produce graphene in large quantities in a literal flash.  This technique, Flash Joule Heating, was discovered in Dr. Tour’s laboratory by graduate student Duy Luong.  Also the lead author on the paper in the journal Nature, Luong “Did not expect to find graphene when he fired up the first small-scale device to find new phases of material, beginning with a sample of carbon black. ‘This started when I took a look at a Science paper talking about flash Joule heating to make phase-changing nanoparticles of metals,’ he said. But Luong quickly realized the process produced nothing but high-quality graphene.”

As Dr. Tour explains in the video below, Luong’s discovery came to have grander, even planet-saving implications.

world throws out 30% to 40% of all food, because it goes bad, and plastic waste is of worldwide concern. We’ve already proven that any solid carbon-based matter, including mixed plastic waste and rubber tires, can be turned into graphene.”

First, by turning just about any source of carbon from banana peels to plastic bottles into flash graphene, the world can save enormous amounts of energy otherwise spent hauling and dealing with trash.  Dr. Tour explains, “This is a big deal.  The

Second, by adding budget graphene to other products, large quantities of material that otherwise adds greenhouse gases to the atmosphere can be reduced and better final products achieved.  For instance, “According to the most recent survey of Portland Cement Association (PCA) members, an average of 927 kg (2044 lb) of CO2 are emitted for every 1000 kg (2205 lb.) of Portland cement produced in the U.S.”

Rice University reports, “Tour said a concentration of as little as 0.1% of flash graphene in the cement used to bind concrete could lessen its massive environmental impact by a third. Production of cement reportedly emits as much as 8% of human-made carbon dioxide every year.

“By strengthening concrete with graphene, we could use less concrete for building, and it would cost less to manufacture and less to transport,” he said. “Essentially, we’re trapping greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane that waste food would have emitted in landfills. We are converting those carbons into graphene and adding that graphene to concrete, thereby lowering the amount of carbon dioxide generated in concrete manufacture. It’s a win-win environmental scenario using graphene.”

Besides concrete, the flash graphene process can convert solid carbon into asphalt, buildings, cars, clothing and more, according to Dr. Tour.  He sees it as a means to use coal to make clean graphene that will thus sequester an otherwise polluting fuel.

Graphene’s use in batteries has been explored and found to have possible benefits for energy and power density, and extending the lifespan of cells.

The paper’s abstract gives an overview of how Rice’s technology is unique.  “Most bulk-scale graphene is produced by a top-down approach, exfoliating graphite, which often requires large amounts of solvent with high-energy mixing, shearing, sonication or electrochemical treatment1,2,3. Although chemical oxidation of graphite to graphene oxide promotes exfoliation, it requires harsh oxidants and leaves the graphene with a defective perforated structure after the subsequent reduction step3,4. Bottom-up synthesis of high-quality graphene is often restricted to ultrasmall amounts if performed by chemical vapor deposition or advanced synthetic organic methods, or it provides a defect-ridden structure if carried out in bulk solution4,5,6. Here we show that flash Joule heating of inexpensive carbon sources—such as coal, petroleum coke, biochar, carbon black, discarded food, rubber tires and mixed plastic waste—can afford gram-scale quantities of graphene in less than one second. The product, named flash graphene (FG) after the process used to produce it, shows turbostratic arrangement (that is, little order) between the stacked graphene layers. FG synthesis uses no furnace and no solvents or reactive gases. Yields depend on the carbon content of the source; when using a high-carbon source, such as carbon black, anthracitic coal or calcined coke, yields can range from 80 to 90 per cent with carbon purity greater than 99 per cent. No purification steps are necessary.”

Waste Plastics to Jet Fuel in an Hour

Washington State University researchers at the Pullman campus have converted plastics to jet fuel and “other valuable products” in an hour at moderate temperatures.  Not quite as quick or “flashy” as the Rice breakthrough, WSU’s process has equally useful outcomes.

The school points out the over-arching threat plastics have to humanity.  “In recent decades, the accumulation of waste plastics has caused an environmental crisis, polluting oceans and pristine environments around the world. As they degrade, tiny pieces of microplastics have been found to enter the food chain and become a potential, if unknown, threat to human health.”  Even surfers organizing beach cleanup won’t necessarily make a sufficiently large dent in the garbage islands floating on our seas.  But making usable products will help incentivize such efforts.

Graduate student Chuhua Jia and Hongfei Lin, associate professor in the Gene and Linda Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering, report on their work in the journal, Chem Catalysis.  Their paper, “Deconstruction of high-density polyethylene into liquid hydrocarbon fuels and lubricants by hydrogenolysis over Ru catalyst” shows how low energy that deconstruction is.  (Oversimplified, hydrogenolysis cuts the bonds holding the plastic together by exposure to hydrogen.)

Highlighting how important their efforts are toward meeting United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the students point out that, “Collectively, ~6.3 billion metric tons of plastic waste were produced by 2015, of which 79% was landfilled, 12% was incinerated, and only 9% was recycled.  PE is the polymer with the most massive volume produced globally, and the production could reach over 100 million metric tons per year.  Therefore, the efficient upcycling of waste plastics, especially PE, is critical to mitigating the severe environmental problem.”  Upcycling is an important concept here, since so much of plastic waste gets downcycled into products of lesser worth.  Even for those things that have inherent value, how many park benches does the world need, anyway?

In a “milestone” that could “advance this new technology to commercialization,” researchers were able to convert 90 percent of their plastic feed stock to, Jet fuel and other valuable hydrocarbon products within an hour at moderate temperatures and to easily fine-tune the process to create the products that they want.”  Low temperatures and flexibility of output will enable using these processes in other reactions.

Professor Hongfei Lin (left) and graduate student Chuhua Jia

Using a ruthenium on carbon catalyst and a commonly used solvent, researchers were able to convert about 90 percent of the plastic to jet fuel components or other hydrocarbon products within an hour at a temperature of 220 degrees Celsius (428 degrees Fahrenheit).  There are no comments on how relatively clean the fuel obtained from the process will be compared to those derived directly from fossil sources.

“Adjusting processing conditions, such as the temperature, time or amount of catalyst used, provided the critically important step of being able to fine-tune the process to create desirable products.”

The team hopes to scale the process to industrial levels for commercialization.  The work, which was done in collaboration with researchers from the University of Washington and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, including Professor Jim Pfaendtner.  It was funded by the Washington State Research Foundation and the National Science Foundation.

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Spark Solo Gets ZeroAvia Sponsorship

Mike Friend, retired Technology Director for Boeing Aircraft, and Gabriel DeVault, head of drivetrain development for ZeroAvia, are putting a Zero motorcycle motor into Mike’s Spark Solo.  There are perhaps dozens of Zero motors flying today, and the 42-pound unit has evolved to powering even two-seat motorgliders like Gabriel’s Sonex Xenos.

An Ambitious Project

Mike came up with the Spark Solo design as a way to, “Encompass the design process” as well as the “piloting and fabricating” aspects of a project.  He wanted to, “Define an airplane uniquely designed around electric propulsion,” noting that, “Past efforts have almost always been adaptations of internal-combustion powered airplanes.”  To help forward his design, Mike has been working with his local EAA chapter, for which he is past president.

Tidy BACE (Bremerton Aviation Center for Education) awaits a project

Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) chapter 406, “Is creating BACE (Bremerton Aviation Center for Education), a place where people can come to learn hands-on skills in airplane design, construction, and maintenance. Our shop area and flight simulator will be resources to go beyond the Young Eagles experience.”   The EAA Young Eagles program promotes aviation by giving young people their first airplane ride, often in a home-built craft.

A Promising Collaboration

On the collaboration between Mike and Gabriel, Greencarcongress.com adds, “Mike Friend, a retired Boeing Senior Technology Director and consultant for Mitsubishi Aircraft, joins [ZeroAvia’s] Technical Advisory Board to lend his extensive aerospace technology knowledge to the powertrain development programs. In the early 2000s, he led a historic Boeing Phantom Works project in Spain, resulting in the world’s first manned hydrogen-electric airplane flight. Following that, he was a chief engineer in the New Airplane Product Development team at Boeing Commercial Aircraft, playing critical roles in developing multiple vehicle concepts, including Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

“ZeroAvia offers hydrogen-fueled powertrain technology to replace conventional engines in commercial aircraft. Adoption of this technology results not only in true zero-emission flight but also in lower fuel and maintenance costs. The company previously completed its first electric flight in the US in 2019, then built the second flying prototype in the UK, and conducted its first electric flight in June of 2020. In September 2020, it achieved the world’s first hydrogen-electric flight of a commercial-grade aircraft.

“Additionally, the company just completed a ground simulation of the complete power profile for its upcoming first cross-country flight. The ground test demonstrated a full battery shutdown in-flight using the company’s unique fuel cell powertrain configuration, allowing for complete removal of the battery system in the next configuration of the powertrain.”

Making Spark Solo Happen

Starting by establishing an advisory team, Mike’s Spark Solo project will create a baseline design and name leaders for, “Airplane configuration integration, trade study leadership, propulsion integration, mockup fabrication, airplane composite fabrication and assembly, other categories to be determined.”

Zero motorcycle motor installation in Gabriel DeVault’s Sonex Xenos

From that basis, the team will define a curriculum to engage EAA members and students as they develop the design and all the systems that go into it.  To test their ideas, the group will build a full-size forward fuselage mockup including mockup propulsion components and flight controls.  Then the team will work with suppliers to obtain components for the aircraft.  This has already resulted in new sponsor ZeroAvia supplying a Zero Motorcycle motor for the airplane (After all, Gabriel DeVault designed that motor).  Mike flew the nearly identical power system in Gabriel’s eGull while in Watsonville, California while helping with motor installation in Gabriel’s Xenos.  According to Mike, the system performed “flawlessly.”

Calfee Design in Watsonville is assembling the motor, controller and related components and Mike will drive to Watsonville to retrieve it  In the meantime, Peter von Schoonhoven of Battleground, WA has offered, “Some damaged Pipistrel Sinus Flex wing panels and fuselage components for use in the project.”  Mike decided to use wings from an existing design and hang the motor and propeller on the aircraft’s nose – mostly for simplicity’s sake.  Many others in the EAA chapter are involved, many retired Boeing personnel.

Spark Solo banking above computer rendered backdrop

Aircraft weights are instructive, with Solo’s airframe coming in at 550 pounds, two sets of batteries at 180 pounds each, the motor controller adding 16 pounds, a charger 15, the propeller 15, and the motor 42.  Total aircraft weight is thus 998 pounds.  A 190-pound pilot tops the takeoff weight at 1,188 pounds.  A single-seat configuration allows for the extra battery weight and added range.

For comparison, an Alexander Schleicher ASW-28 standard class sailplane weighs 518 pounds, and with 397 pounds of water ballast and a fairly large pilot, weighs 1,157 pounds.  Pilot weight would allow 242 pounds, enough for a big guy and a parachute.

As Mike gathers components for Spark Solo, Gabriel DeVault and the crew at ZeroAvia are on to bigger game.

ZeroAvia heads toward Two Megawatts

With a new infusion of $24.3 million from a group of investors lead by Horizon Ventures and joined by British Airways, ZeroAvia has set its sights on developing a two megawatt electric powertrain for full-size regional aircraft.  This funding brings total private investments in ZeroAvia to $53 million, and total funding raised since the company’s founding to nearly $74 million.

Rapidly accumulating funding will lead to 2MW motors, 50-passenger commuter liners

On large and small scale enterprises, electrification of flight vehicles seems to be an ever-growing presence.

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The Media Are Finally Catching On

The media are catching on.  CBS News this morning and Public Broadcasting next week are presenting reports on electric aircraft.  Your editor became aware of CBS’s report this morning at 3:00 a. m., being awakened after falling asleep earlier mid-joke during Stephen Colbert’s show.  It was a pleasant way to face the day.

CBS explains, “Of all the major industries that spew out planet-warming greenhouse gasses, one stands out as unfixable – so far. Fossil fuel power plants can be replaced with wind and solar power. One can switch to electric cars. But as Mark Phillips reports from the British Aviation History Museum for the ‘CBS This Morning’ series Eye on Earth, the one thing aircraft have had in common down through the ages is aviation fuel. A commercially viable electric airplane cannot yet be made, aviation fuel is too powerful to replace with batteries.”  The tone seemed somewhat negative, even though the report showed several examples of electric aircraft now flying

Co-hosts Gayle King, Anthony Mason and Tony Dokoupil chatted after the report from what is actually Duxford’s Imperial War Museum.  Somewhat less informative, they turned to comments on the color scheme for Neil Cloughley’s Faradair.

Even more substantial fare is on its way.  Public Broadcasting’s Nova will feature “The Great Electric Airplane Race” on Wednesday evening, May 26 at 9:00 pm local time.  (As they say on the telly, be sure to check local listings.)  The hour-long program promises a worldwide look at machines we cover regularly in the blog.  This will probably be a first look at the technology for many viewers.

“Can new emission-free electric planes replace our polluting airliners and revolutionize personal transportation in our cities? NOVA takes you for a ride in some impressive prototypes that are already in the air, from speedy single-seat planes that can take off like a helicopter but are half as noisy to “self-flying” air taxis that already taking passengers on test flights in Chinese cities. But if electric airplanes are ever to advance beyond small, short-haul craft, significant hurdles of battery weight, energy storage and cooling remain to be overcome. How long will it be before the dream of super-quiet, super-efficient airliners becomes a reality?”

We can only hope that more programs help promote electric aviation, and help inform an increasingly knowledgeable public.

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Two Cutting Edge Batteries – How Soon?

Hope reigns eternal for those tracking battery developments.  But for once, or even twice, there may be a glimmer of hope with two cutting edge batteries.  Researchers at Zhejiang University in China and Harvard University in America report promising numbers for very approaches, as divergent as their geographical locations.

 Ultrafast All-climate Aluminum-graphene Battery with Quarter-million Cycle Life

Researchers at the verbosely named MOE Key Laboratory of Macromolecular Synthesis and Functionalization, Department of Polymer Science and Engineering, Key Laboratory of Adsorption and Separation Materials and Technologies of Zhejiang Province, Zhejiang University, announced their extreme long-life battery under the almost equally verbose title shown above.

The journal Science Advances published the research team’s paper in its December 15, 2017 issue, making one wonder why it’s only now being noted in publications here.

The abstract for the paper reports remarkably high charge retention after a quarter million cycles and what would seem abusive “folding.”  “Rechargeable aluminum-ion batteries are promising in high-power density but still face critical challenges of limited lifetime, rate capability, and cathodic capacity. We design a “trihigh tricontinuous” (3H3C) graphene film cathode with features of high quality, orientation, and channeling for local structures (3H) and continuous electron-conducting matrix, ion-diffusion highway, and electroactive mass for the whole electrode (3C). Such a cathode retains high specific capacity of around 120 mAh g−1at ultrahigh current density of 400 A g−1 (charged in 1.1 s) with 91.7% retention after 250,000 cycles, surpassing all the previous batteries in terms of rate capability and cycle life. The assembled aluminum-graphene battery works well within a wide temperature range of −40 to 120°C with remarkable flexibility bearing 10,000 times of folding, promising for all-climate wearable energy devices. This design opens an avenue for… future super-batteries.”

The idea of a battery lasting a quarter-million cycles and retaining almost 92 percent of its capacity is astonishing compared to the 500 to 2,000 cycles with 80-percent retention most batteries demonstrate.

Finding a way to make an aluminum-ion battery function all that well has been blocked up to this point, though.  The anode usually demonstrated excellent performance, but cathodes were weak electrically.  Researchers found a graphene film (trihigh tricontinuous or 3H3C) design that could be formed into nano-channels could enable the flow of electrolytes and ions.

(A) Illustration of tricontinuous (3C, continuous electron conductor, continuous ion-conducting channel, and continuous active material) and trihigh (3H, high-quality graphene, high-orientation assembling, and high channeling) design for a desired graphene cathode. (B) Photograph of GO and rGO films. (C) Photograph of as-prepared silvery GF-HC maintaining its original integrity.

Performance is high, even when the pouch cells were folded in half over 10,000 times.  This makes the GF-HC battery a good candidate for wearable energy storage.  Charge and discharge capacity remain remarkably stable even after a quarter-million cycles.

(A) Comparison of specific capacities between GF-HC and GF-p cathodes at 6 A g−1. (B) Overlapped charge/discharge curves of the GF-HC cathode at different cycles, exhibiting two charging plateaus of 1.7 to 2.3 V and 2.3 to 2.5 V and two discharge plateaus of 2.3 to 2.0 V and 2.0 to 1.5 V, which correspond well with cyclic voltammetry in fig. S10. (C) In situ XRD results of fully charged GF-HC, GF-p, and fully discharged GF-HC cathodes. (D) Stable specific capacities of the GF-HC cathode at ultrahigh current densities from 10 to 200 A g−1 and (E) corresponding charge/discharge curves. (F) Stable cycling performance of the GF-HC cathode at current density of 100 A g−1 within 250,000 cycles. (G and H) Comparison of rate capability and cycle life characteristics between the GF-HC cathode and various research results. Legends of (H) are also listed in (G). Detailed data are listed in table S1 (1247815163348). (I) Comparison of the energy/power density of Al-GB with multiple commercialized energy storage technologies and various research results (49).

Harvard’s Solid State Battery

Harvard researchers built a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich of a battery – at least that’s how the school’s Gazette describes it.  Researchers describe it this way.  “Our multilayer design has the structure of a less-stable electrolyte sandwiched between more-stable solid electrolytes, which prevents any lithium dendrite growth through well localized decompositions in the less stable electrolyte layer. A mechanism analogous to the expansion screw effect is proposed, whereby any cracks are filled by dynamically generated decompositions that are also well constrained, probably by the ‘anchoring’ effect the decompositions induce.”

The Gazette expands on its description of what goes on in the battery.  “The first electrolyte (chemical name Li5.5PS4.5Cl1.5 or LPSCI) is more stable with lithium but prone to dendrite penetration. The second electrolyte, (Li10Ge1P2S12 or LGPS) is less stable with lithium but appears immune to dendrites. In this design, dendrites are allowed to grow through the graphite and first electrolyte but are stopped when they reach the second. In other words, the dendrites grow through the lettuce and tomato but stop at the bacon. The bacon barrier stops the dendrites from pushing through and shorting the battery.”

The illustration helps visualize matters, but makes one wonder about the analogy.  If dendrites (teeth-like projections) can pierce the first piece of bread, the first layers of lettuce and tomato, but stop at the bacon, is it possible to eat the sandwich?  Coming from either side, the bacon would be impervious.  It’s great for batteries, anyway.

A BLT battery. First comes the bread — the lithium metal anode — followed by lettuce — a coating of graphite. Next, a layer of tomatoes — the first electrolyte — and a layer of bacon — the second electrolyte. Finish it off with another layer of tomatoes and the last piece of bread — the cathode. Credit: Lisa Burrows/Harvard SEAS (John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences)

While not as long-lived as Zhejiang University’s battery, the Harvard cell is sufficient for all practical purposes.  the Li-metal anode paired with a LiNi0.8Mn0.1Co0.1O2 (lithium, nickel, manganese, carbon) cathode is very stable, retaining 82-percent of its charge after 10,000 cycles at 20C.  Oddly enough, at a lower 1.5C rate, the battery keeps only 81.3-percent capacity after only 2,000 cycles.  (10,000 cycles would allow a full charge-discharge cycle every day for over 27 years.)

Performance at the micro-meter-sized cathode level is great, with a specific power of 110.6 kilowatts per kilogram and a specific energy of up to 631.1 Watt-hours per kilogram.  One wonders what the numbers will be at real-world scale.

A paper on the work, “dynamic stability design strategy for lithium metal solid state batteries,” is published in the journal Nature.  Even the abstract is highly detailed.

A solid-state electrolyte is expected to suppress lithium (Li) dendrite penetration with high mechanical strength.  However, in practice it still remains challenging to realize a lithium metal anode for batteries, because micrometer- or submicrometer-sized cracks in ceramic pellets can frequently be generated during battery assembly or long-time cycling. Once cracks form, lithium dendrite penetration is inevitable. Here we describe a solid-state battery design with a hierarchy of interface stabilities (to lithium metal responses), to achieve an ultrahigh current density with no lithium dendrite penetration. Our multilayer design has the structure of a less-stable electrolyte sandwiched between more-stable solid electrolytes, which prevents any lithium dendrite growth through well localized decompositions in the less stable electrolyte layer. A mechanism analogous to the expansion screw effect is proposed, whereby any cracks are filled by dynamically generated decompositions that are also well constrained, probably by the ‘anchoring’ effect the decompositions induce. The cycling performance of the lithium metal anode paired with a LiNi0.8Mn0.1Co0.1O2 cathode is very stable, with an 82 per cent capacity retention after 10,000 cycles at a 20C rate (8.6 milliamps per centimeter squared) and 81.3 per cent capacity retention after 2,000 cycles at a 1.5C rate (0.64 milliamps per centimeter squared). Our design also enables a specific power of 110.6 kilowatts per kilogram and specific energy up to 631.1 watt hours per kilogram at the micrometer-sized cathode material level.

Not Ready for Prime Time

Note that neither battery is anywhere near production, both being at the laboratory phase.  Both, however, show promise for the future.  How far in the future is unknown.

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Air Race E: Three Classes, 18 Teams

Air Race E is gathering momentum, now comprising two airplane classes and one eVTOL (electric Vertical Take Off and Landing aircraft) class.  Seven teams are officially entered and 11 “registered and confidential.”  Teams hail from the United States, Great Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Malaysia, Ukraine, and the Czech Republic.  This worldwide interest stems from a Dubai-based headquarters and intellectual centers in Europe, America and the Far East.

Your editor knows, for instance, that Richard Glassock is working at the University of Nottingham on a Cassutt racer intended for e-racing. That is likely just one of two British teams and one of several fielding modified cassutts, a well-proven design with a fifty-year history.

A Pair of Introductions

Two videos highlight the excitement of the proposed events, but spare the more technical aspects of the sport.  They’re selling the matches to prospective spectators.

In this longer video, Jeff Zaltman talks about the technical challenges and provides some insight into several of the competitors’ designs and approaches.  Again, note the proliferation of Cassutts involved.

Class Distinctions – Open Class

Two fixed-wing classes will be significantly different from one another.  Open-class racers can be powered by any purpose-built electric motor system of up to 150 kilowatts (201 horsepower) output.  These can include multiple motors ganged together, or for one, the Mµz Motor designed by Mobius Team member Carl Copeland.

This version, made of paper (!) is an early model and final race-bound units will be “cellulose fiber.”  In other words – paper.  We can only assume it will be a fairly tough variation.

PIE Aeronefs in France is partnering with LZ-Tec s.r.o. in Czechia to power their V-tailed entry with an Emrax 348 motor.  Success with their UR-1 could lead to a UR-2 and UR-4, both powered by distributed electric propulsion.

PIE UR-1 is sleek, but will have fixed gear in reality

French Team Scramasaxe (named for a type of battle axe) will probably be the only aircraft with a tricycle landing gear.  To reduce drag, Scramasaxe will feature, “An automatic retracting and extracting triggering system for the nose wheel. This will be fun to observe. And we will make sure it works in every circumstance.”  

 

Scramasaxe design will have automatically retractable/extensible nose gear

The French E Racer is another Cassutt-based machine using a, “Powertrain which is based on self-developed and on shelf parts.”  The team adds, “The plane that the French E-Racer team plans to build will also be a technological demonstrator and a test platform for new elements making up the architecture of its propulsion system.”

French E Racer will be fairly straightforward adaptation of Cassutt racer

Yet another Cassutt racer comes from Norway, via the Nordic Air Racing team.  Tomas Brødreskift – Technical Manager, is of interest because he has constructed an advanced hybrid amphibian, the Equator P2.  The team’s Cassutt will have an Emrax motor and, “a novel fire protection system, composed of a specific mix of lightweight materials that will protect the aircraft and pilot in case of battery fire. An important milestone already passed was the successful fire test of this novel fire protection ‘wall.’”

Nordic Team shows how to squeeze 18 kilowatt-hours of battery into a very small airplane

Team Bandit Racing is hangared at Old Warden Aerodrome, home of the Shuttleworth Trust, one of the finest aircraft collections in the world.  (Your editor’s been there.)  “Bandit” refers to the sports car built there, to be released this month and a worthy companion to the Air Racer E also housed there.  It shares a love of technology.  “Buyers will be able to choose between liquid-fueled engines, a hydrogen cell or full electric.”

Team Bandit hasn’t share images of their Bullet, but the same team restored this Supermarine Seafire

The team apparently shares space and talent with Kennet Aviation, a full-service aircraft restoration firm.  They make CNC and specially-machined parts for antiques, and have restored aircraft such as the Supermarine Seafire.  Their aircraft, called the Berkeley Bullet, will be launched almost simultaneously with the Bandit.

Team NL, despite its Netherlands headquarters, “Is an international team, with members from the Netherlands, England, and Poland. We are always keen to involve anyone who shares our interest in sustainable electric aircraft racing.”

Team NL”s distinctive airplane with a distinctive paint job in artist’s rendering

Perhaps the most distinctive aircraft, aside from the Aeronef PIE UR-1, Team NL’s racer is a stunning shape with contra-rotating propellers and at least in the artist’s rendering, an eye-catching color scheme.

Just large enough to fit its pilot, Team NL’s entry features a unique power system.  “The propulsion system consists of two motors driving a contra-rotating propeller set. This adds redundancy into the propulsion system. This system is going to be fully electric. At max throttle there will be 150KW power available to the pilot!”

On To the Performance and Vertical Classes

These seven teams are the frontrunners at this point, and emulate some of the characteristics of Formula E car racing.  That has moved from an almost one-design basis to enabling teams to design their cars and power systems.  The Performance Class for Air Race E will be closer to Formula E’s original concept, supplying a standard motor and power system for each racer.

Vertical class will be the wildest card in the new deck.  Organizers describe it this way. “The electric VTOL class is an entirely different category of aircraft altogether. Often referred as ‘flying cars’, this type or aircraft is at the forefront of electric technology in aerospace. Brace yourself for The World’s First Vertical Motorsport!  This race format and its rules will be somewhat different than the airplane classes and will be revealed soon.

We will continue the review of Air Race E and its implications for “improving the breed” in an upcoming entry.

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