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Electric Engine

E-Aircraft Manufacturers

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 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.



Electric & Hybrid Aircraft

Electron, Australia

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.

Pipistrel d.o.o.

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.

Magnus eFusion

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 Aero

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.

Products

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.

AeroTEC

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.

Electric DHC-2 Beaver

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.

Eviation Alice

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. 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 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.


NASA X-57 Maxwell

NASA uses a Tecnam P2006 airframe, installed batteries in the second row and two electric motors on the wings and called it the X-57 Maxwell. It can fly 1 hour and covers a distance of 100 nm. The cabin seats two persons. Estimated cost for the aircraft is 2 million USD.

Bye Aerospace, eFlyer

The U.K based company is developing the eFlyer, two seat (four seat in the works) since 2014. The engine used in these aircraft is from Siemens. More information on the Bye Aerospace website.

2021: Bye now explorers a twin e-aircraft for it potential customers. From the company: eFlyer 800: a project responsive to "growing demands for regional all-electric airplanes with significantly reduced operating costs, plus increased capacity and utility." Bye is using, or is planning to use Li-S (Lithium-Sulfur) batteries for energy storage. Read more on that in our article about energy storage.

Their estimated performance for the low wing eight place with wing mounted electric motors, prominent winglets, and a T-tail includes up to a 320 kts cruise speed offers a 35000 ft ceiling, and a 500 nm range with 45 minute IFR reserves at normal cruise speed of 280 knots and a maximum payload of 1540 pounds. More on the story from AOPA: Bye twin 8 seat aircraft.

Ampaire

This California based company is using a Cessna 337 SkyMaster and they have removed the rear engine, installing a battery powered electric engine to reduce emissions and noise. It is one of the largest hybrid aircraft to date (their claim in 2019). They also say the third revolution in aviation being electric. We can only hope they know something about battery physics (that we don't) making this possible. More here on the AmpAir website.

ElectroFlight, Accel NXT

A 2011 startup UK company is developing an electric Nemesis NXT airframe together with Roll-Royce. This airframe was one of the few still around and suitable to contain the battery pack in the fuselage. Propulsion is with three (!) electric motors, 750R AC from YASA, driving a single MT constant speed propeller.

The battery pack consist of three channels, one for each motor. Total number of cells is 6000 at a weight of 2600 lbs / 1180 kg and has no protective metal box as in cars. It weighs more than the rest of the aircraft. The system also includes three DC/AC converters to feed the motors. For cooling a pump and heat exchanger with a non-conductive coolant as this runs within and through the battery.

Endurance at maximum power is 6 minutes, with partial power takeoffs expect 10 minutes over the airport. More info at Avweb Inside.

Electric WingSuit

This is not really an aircraft or manufacturer but its a wing suit driven by two electric turbines and stays aloft for five (5) minutes, created by Peter Salzmann and BMW. In the test flight the 'pilot' was dropped from an altitude of 10000 feet and flew over the Alps. AVweb has the story: Electric WingSuit. Nice try, but of no real practical use.


Aerolite 103

2021: A kit ultralight aircraft (part 103) and 1000 of these have been constructed until today, their e-aircraft has an electric engine (30 lbs) and a system with 2, 3 or 4 battery units (35 lbs a piece). The four pack runs the plane for an hour at an economical cruise speed (45 - 63 mph). When performing take-offs and landings in the pattern the endurance is reduced in half. More info at fly103.com.

Cost

The motor, cable harness and controller costs 4500 USD and each battery unit with a charger costs around 2500 USD and it takes around 8 hours to charge a unit, although you can leave the batteries in the aircraft and charge all of them with one charger, then it will take 4 x 8 = 32 hours for a complete charge. Battery life is some 500 complete cycles. That comes to 10000 USD for 500 hours of flight or 20 USD per hour (at 50 mph IAS) to replace the batteries alone, as long as they or the controller do not fail sooner.

Yuneec E430

Yuneec International E430 was in 2009 developing the E430 which is a twin seat, single engine, LSA class aircraft with a significant difference to every commercially available plane that has come before it – it is entirely electric. The lightweight composite construction E430 charges in three hours from a domestic 230 volt power point and runs for two and half hours on a charge.

More info

Wing Span: 13.8 m (45.2 ft), Fuselage Length: 6.68 m (21.9 ft), Empty Weight:178 kg (392 lbs) (No Battery), Maximum Takeoff Weight: 430 kg (946 lbs), Motor Output: 40 kw (54 hp) @ 2,450 RPM, Battery Type: Lithium Polymer, Battery Weight: 72 kg (158.5 lbs) (6 Packs). Information from NewAtlas Yuneec.

Written by EAI.




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