Built in Slovenia the Pipistrel Panthera is a four seater light aircraft with an option that verges on the bizarre. Not only is it available with the more usual 210hp Lycoming engine but can also be bought with as a hybrid or purely electric option. Now call me old fashioned but I can’t get my head around an electric aeroplane. Well OK for radio controlled models but we all know how they run out of power and come down with a thump. To appreciate the advantages and disadvantages we need to look at the specs. Consumption on the Lycoming is some 37 litres an hour. If you think petrol is expensive, you ain’t bought avgas. Expect to pay in excess of £2 per litre. So if you could charge up with electricity and dodge the high tax on aviation fuel you can save serious money. The electric version is about €90,000 more expensive. A farm strip with some PV panels on the hanger and virtually free flying. Excepting of course the extra capital cost which would buy a lot of petrol(roughly 5000 hours of air time). However there is another issue. Performance.
Payload 1145 lbs 440 lbs
Cruise Speed 233 mph 135mph
Range 1025 nautical miles 215 nautical miles
So we see there is a serious penalty to be considered. I suppose one plus is that each aeroplane is fitted with a ballistic parachute so if the electricity runs down your landing will be softer and less expensive than that model aeroplane. Slovenia may be an unusual place to buy an aircraft from but they do have a long and illustrious record in building some of the best gliders around. That technology has transferred well to a growing range of ultra light aircraft and this move up to a more grown up aeroplane is a welcome departure. Electric? Well if they want my endorsement they will need to supply me a long term test, although I do feel that their smaller sport plane would be an interesting move for the leisure pilot but that only comes with a Rotax petrol engine for now.