The world of electric airplanes is becoming busier and ever more crowded. One airplane we haven’t covered yet is the amazing little Pipistrel Alpha Electro, an awesome 2-seat electric trainer.
The Cool Little 2-Seat Electric Trainer, the Pipistrel Alpha Electro
Over at CleanTechnica, we’re always excited to see new frontiers expand, and none are more exciting than the airspace. When it comes to electric vehicles (EV), the news is mostly centered on cars (and maybe two-wheelers of various sorts). However, electric airplanes and other vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft have been making the rounds for the past two years.
One airplane that makes perfect sense for any training school and those who just want to have fun locally for pennies on the dollar, in terms of maintenance, is Pipistrel’s Alpha Electro. The electric powertrain is operated with one simple lever, letting the pilot and crew focus on learning piloting skills.
The Alpha Electro is from Pipistrel Aircraft, a company well known for its lightweight and fun aircraft. With its short takeoff distance and an impressively powerful 1000+ fpm climb rate, the Alpha Electro can fly for over an hour plus reserve. The electric airplane is really optimized for training schools and traffic-pattern operations. It uses the aviation’s equivalent of regenerative braking, which gives it a 13% of energy recuperation on approach. This further increases its endurance, enabling its short-field landing capacity, and raises its security with extra energy should a landing be aborted.
Ivo Boscarol, CEO of Pipistrel was quoted as saying: “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.”
From The WATTsUP to the Pipistrel Alpha Electro
Originally, Pipistrel was working on its electric aircraft prototype the WATTsUP, which was developed in partnership with Siemens AG. Siemens provided the main electric propulsion components. Progressively, Pipistrel further developed every element of the aircraft and refined it to become lighter, more efficient, and more reliable.
The first prototype sported an 85 kW electric motor and only weighed about 31 lb (14 kg). What made it appealing to Pipistrel is that the electric motor is both lighter and more powerful than the popular Rotax 912 series, an engine typically used on microlights and light sports aircrafts (LSA).
Using a 17 kWh battery pack that was designed to be dual-redundant and quickly swappable within minutes, it can also be charged in less than one hour using Pipistrel’s battery management technology and its ALPHA Electro smart charger.
Using Siemens electric motors made sense since it was and still is developing electric drive systems that have the highest power-to-weight ratio for aircraft propulsion. Another reason why so many airplane makers are now seriously looking into electric drive is that it is scalable. Eventually, Pipistrel introduced the Alpha Electro as an improvement to its “WATTsS UP” prototype.
Electric Planes Are Coming In Fast!
2017 is certainly proving that electric airplanes are coming in fast and making a more and more compelling business and maintenance budget case for electric drive in aviation.
We’re happy to see the Pipistrel Alpha Electro taking off like this. It makes for a perfect trainer electric aircraft.