Get ready for the next wave of green technology: electric aircraft.
This week, NASA selected the winner of its CAFE Green Flight Challenge, the team from Pipistrel-USA.com. The prize? A lofty $1.35 million.
The event, sponsored by Google, was held at the Sonoma County Airport in California and was intended to promote more efficient aircraft design, as well as the growth of an electric aircraft industry.
Fourteen teams signed up for the challenge, but only two aircraft met the competition's efficiency requirements: the aircraft had to travel at least 200 miles at 100 miles per hour, using less than the energy equivalent of one gallon of fuel per occupant.
The Pipistrel team, which took the top prize, flew an electric plane called the Taurus G4, while the runner-up, also flying an electric aircraft, was the eGenius team from Germany. NASA said on Monday that both teams exceeded the challenge requirement, averaging the energy equivalent of nearly 400 passenger miles per gallon, while flying more than 100 miles per hour.
While Pipistrel said it does not plan on building the electric two-seater for production, the competition results bode well for the future of electric power in aviation.
And considering that by many counts, the global aviation industry is among the worst CO2 offenders, the prospect of using electric aircraft for commercial travel sounds promising.