A number of companies are developing electric power plants for aircraft, basically for powered gliders and small ultralight aircraft. In most of these designs the power plant is of secondary importance and the aircraft can fly, or better, glide considerable distances without an engine purely by its basic aerodynamic properties.
Developments are in progress to electrify some every day general aviation class aircraft or even new designs. Because of many limitations to overcome, large scale applications will not come any time soon. The main problem is energy storage: liquid fuel (Mogas, AVgas or Jet fuel) has the highest energy density per weight, which is very hard to beat, except for nuclear fission or fusion. This will limit the range of any aircraft trying to fly any considerable amount of time or distance with a worthwhile payload.
On this and the next page we line up those manufacturers. The list may very well be not complete and some might even have disappeared altogether, but here it is.
Based in Oakland, CA and started in 2017 with a proof of concept autonomous aircraft called Big Bird. That project culminated into commercial certification in 2019 with the New Zealand CAA, the Egret. The second generation is called Pelican, also autonomous AG, tricycle gear with an endurance of 30 minutes (+10 reserve) which went into production in 2020. In June 2021 certification flights were started in the U.S. The company is planning a P3, which is set to be a passenger aircraft with a hour endurance. It has 4 motors of 100 kW each and a battery with a capacity of 242 kWh, MAUW is 7700 lbs. More info on their website: Fly Pyka.
2012: Announced that they also will develop an electric demonstrator aircraft. This is for evaluating performance, power, control, thermal management and safety (think lithium batteries). Embraer says: "The aircraft is outfitted with an electric powertrain system from Brazil-based electric mobility solutions provider WEG and batteries funded by Brazilian electric utility company EDP".
These guys from Norfolk in the U.K. are building an electric Zenith CH-750 in good ol' England. Their website Nuncats will have more info in good time. The concept should be proven by the end of 2021. They claim to use existing proven technologies to provide immediate solutions. Basically its a firewall forward package for the Zenith. There is also a crowdfunding in place for this project. Lets wait and see when this takes off.
The electric motor is the same as Pipistrel uses in the Velis, but with the battery packs under the cowling, range extension is done with batteries in the cabin on the second seat. The engine is capable of 180 ft.lbs of torque with maximum power of 350 hp with liquid cooling but it will be derated. Endurance is expected to be an hour.
The ground charging solution for the bush is solar cells or a generator to lead acid batteries on the ground which then via charger to the lithium batteries in the aircraft. Talk about inefficiencies... The home charger is a 230 volt with 20 A maximum.
From down under, Electron is claiming, aiming to build the world fastest electric aircraft. Developments in the electric technologies (their words) has made it possible to fly fully electric. The small two seat tandem, low wing design features a 75 kW BLDC motor and a 46 kWh battery (we think that weighs about 300 kg), the propeller is a ground adjustable direct drive type. The maximum weight is 600 kg has a fixed landing gear with a GRS 600 optional parachute. More at their website: https:/electron.aero.
Made in Slovenia, this is a small two seat trainer production certified e-aircraft with two battery packs, one hour endurance plus 30 min reserve. Learn more about this aircraft on our page here. The company is also planning a hybrid Panthera powered by a Rotax 914/5 and generator, battery and propeller driven by an electric motor. Although this project is on the back burner for some time now (2021). Meanwhile they developed the certified version of the electric Virus, named Velis.
The Magnus company is based in Hungary and they manufacture the eFusion in cooperation with Siemens. The first eFusion has made its maiden flight on April 11, 2016. Its performance is comparable to a Rotax 912s powered Fusion. Not much information is available on the company website.
MagniX develops high power density electric motors to power aircraft. They envision open skies, allowing people to embark on journeys and packages to be delivered. Makes me wonder what we have been doing the last 100 years or so as air travel is doing just that. They also claim emission free. Well, where do they think the electricity is coming from to power these motors as renewable energy has a mere 2% share in the total energy production of the world.
The company has two electric motors available: the magni250 with a power of 280 kW and the magni500: a 560 kW model. They also fabricate an electronic drive unit: 170 kW magniDrive. More technical information can be found on the company website.
Together they are developing a Cessna Caravan with a Magni500 electric motor and are test flying early 2020, see the webpage of MagniX eCaravan. There was only one pilot on board and the whole cabin filled with batteries. The company claims that these e-aircraft are economically feasible for short range commute and battery technology will advance far enough. Time will only tell.
MagniX has equipped a deHavilland Beaver DHC-2 with their magni500 (560 kW / 750 hp) electric motor and battery pack. This model aircraft is being used by Harbour Air Seaplanes in Richmond, British Columbia Canada on short haul trips of around 30 minutes. The engine is derated to 450 hp and drives a 4-bladed Hartzell propeller and the battery pack (filling the cabin of the prototype to its maximum weight) supplies the energy for the 15 min flight and has 25 min reserve. They also plan to convert the Otter to electric drive too, but then the motor will configured to supply maximum power. FAA certification is in the works. For more details see the website of Harbour Air.
This German company builds the F2e, an electric version of the popular F2 aircraft. The F2e is built upon the structure of the coming F4, a four seat version with a MTOW of 1000 kg. This allows for more battery capacity than the two seat electric aircraft others sell. More technical information in the F2e brochure from FD.
Is a company based in
Israel Arlington, Washington and is developing a nine (9) place fully electric commuter style aircraft (Alice) with the looks of a shark in a tail dragger configuration able to fly 440 NM (+45 min IFR reserve) with a cruise speed of 220 kts. It is powered by three (3) engines each 354 hp (264 kW cruise), one at each wing tip and one in the tail, pusher style configuration. Its Li-Ion battery pack contains 920 820 kWh and weighs 3600 3720 kg, total MTOW is 5700 6668 kg. More information on the Eviation website.
Their prototype aircraft was substantially damaged in a battery system fire in January 2020, with the exact cause and damage unknown at the end of Jan, 2020. More in this article from AVweb (cause was a faulty ground battery system). The company expects to have the first flight later in 2021, entry into service is expected in 2024. The engines and drive electronics are made by the same company that installed the engine in the Beaver and Otter: MagniX Aero.
During development the aircraft and battery weight went up some 120 kg (265 lbs) while the capacity went down. Note that the aircraft is a tail dragger, why? We all know how notoriously difficult these are to land, especially in crosswind conditions... It also needs 2600 ft of ground roll with those small wings.
2021: DHL has announced an order for 12 Eviation Alice cargo planes. Source AVweb: "DHL says the Alice fleet will service short hop routes that are common in its operations. It will be able to carry 2600 pounds of freight and go up to 440 miles on a charge. A recharge will take 30 minutes and will be done during unloading and loading.". Interesting to say the least.Written by EAI.