Originally published on Gas2.
Speaking of electric planes… China’s first passenger electric plane, the RX1E Ruixiang (whatever that means), has been produced. Get ready for 5 million more!… (or not).
While we are still a long way off from passenger electric planes making any sense for anyone but the über rich (or 以上 rich, I should say), you have to admit that it’s pretty fun dreaming about this.
Experimental human-carrying electric planes have been in development at least since 1973, as Green Optimistic‘s Satya Sivani writes. And as I just wrote moments ago, a Frenchman has just set a record for being the first person to fly in a 100% battery-electric plane over the English Channel — a feat that took about 36 minutes (with about 14 minutes worth of power left in the plane after landing). But with the current state of batteries as they are (cost and all), it’s just going to be awhile until actual passenger transport in electric planes makes any financial sense… if it ever does.
But, with China jumping into the game, hey, maybe we’re getting there. The RX1E Ruixiang isn’t just the first passenger electric plane produced in China, though. It is “the world’s first electric passenger plane that received an airworthiness certificate.” Knowing very little about aviation, I’ll just assume that’s an important certificate.
“As China’s official media reported, the electric plane, RX1E Ruixiang, designed by Shenyang Aerospace University and Liaoning general aviation academy in the northeastern Liaoning Province, received its airworthiness certificate from the Civil Aviation Administration of China.”
The RX1E Ruixiang’s range is not that different from the range of the two-seat E-Fan that Didier Esteyne just used to fly across the English Channel. While Esteyne’s plane has about 50 minutes of flying time on a full charge, the RX1E has about 40 minutes of flying time. The RX1E maximizes its range with the use of lightweight carbon fiber, and its battery charges in about 1½ hours. Here are some more stats about the plane:
- wingspan = 14.5 meters
- maximum cruising speed = 150 km/h
- maximum takeoff weight = 500 kg
- maximum altitude = 3000 meters
- capital cost = 980,000 yuan (~$157,000)
- operational cost = 20 yuan (~$) per hour
And apparently dozens of other people think so as well. At least 28 orders for the RX1E Ruixiang have been made to date. “Already, the first two airplanes were delivered to Liaoning Ruixiang General Aviation Co., which will use them for flight training.” However, there are many other potential uses for such a plane as well (aside from pure fun), such as tourism, meteorology, and (reportedly) rescue operations.
Now, if only there was a way to install something on the top of electric planes that could turn sunlight into electricity… then an electric plane could fly around the world!
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