An Electric Aeroplane!

Pipistrel Panthera

Pipistrel Panthera

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.

                                                   petrol                                electric

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.

pipestrel Sinus

Pipistrel Sinus

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About Dougal Quixote

Slightly mad. Always believes a cup is half full so continues to tilt at Wind Turbines and the politicians that seem to believe it is their god given right to ruin Scotland for a pot of fool's gold.
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2 Responses to An Electric Aeroplane!

  1. dave ward says:

    Quite apart from a 4 seat plane which can now barely carry 2 average people, you have exactly the same problem as electric cars, namely the time it takes to refuel. Whilst the Lycoming engined version can land, refuel and be airborne in 10-15 minutes, the electric would take hours, or even overnight, via a conventional AC outlet. The new generation of “Superchargers” are few and far between, and I can’t see any of them appearing at your typical aeroclub, seeing as how most are struggling financially as it is. Purely electric planes are going to be (effectively) a very expensive take off, fly round your local area, and land back again “toy”. Once you get bored with that you can’t plan a long cross country, or a trip across the Channel for lunch as many pilots do now….

    Oh, and ask Boeing about Lithium Ion batteries in flying machines!

    • Quite agree Dave, although I can see the point of a hybrid in a glider. The weight could be kept low over the CofG and the electric rotor on the pylon would be very light. Assuming we are talking hybrid fossil motor powering generator/alternator to drive electric powerhead. I still don’t see the point of heavy batteries, especially those cheap on ebay from Boeing.

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