One of the major highlights of last week's Paris Air show was a tiny electric airplane that sent a pilot soaring through the air just long enough to set a new speed record of 175 mph.
Although the feat was quite impressive, it also demonstrated just how much the technology is still in its infancy. For instance, the record-breaking twin-engine Cristaline aircraft, piloted by Hugues Duval of France, has a 16-feet wing span and weighs a mere 200 pounds. Yes, the aircraft is so lightweight that some gym rats can bench press it quite easily, a factor that obviously helps to boost speed.
Other equally modest specs include two 1.5 kWh batteries and a pair of on-board electric motors providing a maximum power output of 35 hp. For comparison's sake, an electric car like the Tesla roadster has under its hood a a 53kWh battery and a 248 hp engine. Still, the engineers were able to still able to squeeze out about a half hour of flight time with the aircraft traveling at a speed of 65 mph.
So it's safe to say that a lot of advancements will need to happen before electric airplanes can be scaled up to the point where it can be viable for commercial air travel. But since most efforts thus far have focused on improving endurance, an emphasis on faster speeds is definitely a good sign. As vital as it is for airlines that an aircraft can fly long distances, it's undoubtedly just as important that passengers reach their destinations as quickly as possible.
Here is video footage of the flight (excuse the French):
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