Thinking Tech

Video: an electric plane for greener air travel

Video: an electric plane for greener air travel

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The Elektra One, an all-electric aircraft developed by PC-Aero in Germany, completed an initial test flight.

Electric cars have barely started to gain some traction, yet some ambitious companies are already getting a jump on developing electric airplanes.

Last week, the Elektra One, an all-electric aircraft developed by PC-Aero in Germany, completed an initial test flight. The aircraft reached an elevation of 500 meters while staying airborne for about 30 minutes and landing after using just half of its battery juice.

While the achievement was mightily impressive, the flight was merely a warm-up for another feat the engineering team hopes to accomplish. The Elektra is an entry in NASA's CAFE Green Flight Challenge, where a grand prize of 1.5 million dollars will be awarded to the best performer. To qualify, a prototype must be able to fly 200 miles in less than two hours using the energy equivalent of less than 1 gallon of gasoline per occupant.

Judging from the airplane's specs, as reported by Treehugger.com, the team has a strong shot to soar past the competition with a few improvements and tweaks.

According to PC-Aero, the high performance, rechargeable battery provides an endurance of more than 3 hours and a range of more than 400 km with a cruise speed of 160kph. When empty, Elektra One has a weight of 100 kg including engine and propeller, and has a maximum weight of 300 kg.

Specifications
- number of seats: 1
- maximum weight: 300 kg
- wingspan: 8,6 m
- wing surface : 6,4 m2
- maximum engine power: 16 KW
- empty weight (without batteries): 100 kg
- max. batteries: 100 kg
- payload: 100 kg
- max. range: over 400 km
- max. endurance: over 3 hours
- modern composite glass-/carbon-structure
- advanced aerodynamic design
- best propeller efficiency (90%)
- light batteries
- highly efficient electric drive
- integration of new certification procedures

Over the next weeks, Elektra One will get a new variable pitch propeller and a retractable landing gear. This will give the electric plane better flight performance.

Although it's still much too early to contemplate when airline passengers can start booking emissions-free flights, the technology can't come soon enough. United Nations climate scientists have estimated that fuel burnt during air travel is twice as damaging for the climate as emissions created at ground level, according to a report by Reuters.

So perhaps the most exciting thing about this video is seeing an airplane that leaves behind nary a trace nor footprint.

(via Treehugger)

Photo: PC-Aero/nice4youreyes.de

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Tuan Nguyen

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Tuan C. Nguyen is a freelance science journalist based in New York City. He has written for the U.S. News and World Report, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC News, AOL, Yahoo! News and LiveScience. Formerly, he was reporter and producer for the technology section of ABCNews.com. He holds degrees from the University of California Los Angeles and the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure