Earlier this year, we reported on Slovenia-based light aircraft maker Pipistrel bringing its Alpha Electro all-electric plane to serial production after gaining in popularity with flight schools.
Now it received airworthiness certification from the FAA – the first all-electric trainer plane to hit the US.
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As we previously reported, battery technology is improving rapidly which enables new application like electric flight.
Right now, most companies are looking at what it means for commercial aircraft, like Airbus building an electric plane prototype with Rolls-Royce and Siemens or startup Wright Electric partnering with easyJet to bring an all-electric aircraft to market.
But the reality is that smaller lightweight aircraft are first going to be electrified before those massive commercial planes.
That’s the idea behind Pipistrel’s Alpha Electro: making an airplane with a small and lightweight battery pack with enough energy capacity to still enable some applications.
It’s a 2-seat electric trainer tailored to the needs of flight schools. The all-composite body with electric motor and 20 kWh battery packs weights a total of 350 kg and it has a max payload of 200 kg, which is perfect for flight training.
The plane has now been inspected by the FAA and has received airworthiness certification.
It follows certification in Australia and Canada. Now U.S. flight schools will be able to operate the aircraft.
The company says that the plane can stay in the air for an hour, with an extra 30 minutes in reserve.
Ivo Boscarol, CEO of Pipistrel, says:
“With the ever growing cost of fuel it is time to rethink pilot training. Our solution is the first practical all-electric trainer! Technologies developed specially for this aircraft cut the cost of ab-initio pilot training by as much as 70%, making flying more affordable than ever before. Being able to conduct training on smaller airfields closer to towns with zero C02 emissions and minimum noise is also a game changer! Alpha Electro meets microlight and ASTM LSA criteria, as well as standards for electric propulsion. Alpha Electro is our 5th electric aircraft project and the second to result as a commercial product.”
They claim an extremely low cost of operation (~$3 per flight at $0.15 per kWh) and the battery pack can be charged fairly quickly thanks to its small size. It can also be swapped for rapid turnaround. The batteries in this plane are expected to be viable for roughly 1000 flying hours.
It’s very exciting. We are starting the witness the first steps of all-electric flight.
If you get one of those electric planes, we would love to check out for a feature on Electrek. Our publisher Seth even has a pilot license.