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Australia's first electric passenger
plane takes to the skies of Perth, with Rottnest in its sights
Added by admin 6/01/18
By Elicia Kennedy - Updated Fri at 10:51am
Australia's first electric aircraft has begun
test flights at Perth's Jandakot Airport, amid hopes the plane
will be flying to nearby Rottnest Island within months.
The two-seater single-engine Pipistrel Alpha Electro has two
batteries that can keep the plane in the air for an hour, with an
extra 30 minutes in reserve.
The team behind the plane says while there are environmental
benefits in doing away with jet fuel, electric planes are also
safer and easier to fly.
"Electric propulsion is a lot simpler than a petrol engine,"
Electro.Aero founder Joshua Portlock said.
"Inside a petrol engine you have hundreds of moving parts".
The engine is powered by two lithium-ion batteries, similar to
those used in the Tesla electric car.
There is no gear box or multiple moving engine parts —instead the
plane's motor attaches directly to the propeller.
Rather than a fuel gauge, a panel tells the pilot the amount of
power left in the battery, and estimated minutes of flight time,
based on the throttle position.
The batteries are re-energised in about an hour by a supercharger
based at the Jandakot airfield.
Mr Portlock claims electric planes will prove a safer alternative
to conventional fuel-powered aircraft because of their
"You are dealing with 50 years (of) engine technology in
aircraft, so that complexity adds to the risk of flying and the
time it takes to learn to fly," he said.
But although they are constantly improving, batteries remain
limited in the amount of energy they can store.
The batteries in this plane are expected to be viable for about
1000 flying hours.
But the cost of flying and maintenance is significantly cheaper.
It costs about $3 an hour to run the plane's engine, one-tenth
the cost of a fuel engine.
The plane uses 60 kilowatts of power to take off and 20kW to
But once it is gliding, the motor switches off — and like an
electric car, it is almost silent.
"It's more comfortable," pilot Robert Bodley said.
"The vibration is less, the heating is less, it's a more stable
aircraft as well."
In mid-January Mr Bodley will begin training local pilots to fly
the single-engine electric plane, with registered pilots required
to complete a familiarisation flight before flying solo.
Mr Portlock said the group had held discussions with the Rottnest
Island Authority to install a supercharger to tap into its solar
array, allowing pilots to fly the plane to the island.
Future plans include electric air-taxis capable of carrying up to
five people to the holiday destination.
More (photos and video)...
Story and image courtesy:
ABC News (Australia)