What a month this has been for electric mobility. Electric vehicles (EV) are racing everywhere from Formula E to now Extreme E, and air racing now welcomes Air Race E, which has Airbus throwing its weight into the fold. Can anything stop EVs? Why are so many people still resistant to EVs?
Airbus is the official founding partner of Air Race E, the new e-plane race that sets to be the Formula E of the air by 2020. Airbus, of course, will use the racing series as a test bed for betterment of electric propulsion technology.
According to Jeff Zaltman, Air Race E CEO:
“We are thrilled to announce the world’s first and only all-electric airplane racing championship. Air Race E has secured all key components to make this vision a reality: the airplanes, the race pilots, the engineers, the sports associations, a test center in Europe, and the racing heritage and expertise that is unrivaled in the world”
Airbus & Air Race E Brings Formula E Racing to The Air
It was exciting to speak to Alejandro Agag 4 years ago about how they pulled together an international race series in just 2 years. It’s even more exciting to see how far Formula E has come today. And now, an off-road Extreme E series is about to take off using electric SUVs and the Electric GT Championship series is set to take off soon as well.
But when it comes to air racing, outside of Air Race One and the Red Bull Air Race, nothing much has happened with electricity, until now.
Air Race E’s goal is simple: “to drive the development and adoption of cleaner, faster and more technologically advanced electric engines that can be applied to urban air mobility vehicles and, eventually, commercial aircraft.” This means 8 electric planes will race over a tight circuit just 1.5km (0.9 mile) end-to-end at speeds of over 400 km/h (280 mph), 10 meters (32.8 ft) above the ground.
Air Race E will have a similar approach to the Air Race 1 series, with the Formula 1 pylon circuit on a tight circuit with speeds much faster than any land-locked motorsport. There will be no time trials and planes will race for 10 laps.
If you’re not familiar with the Air Race 1, the series is similar to Formula 1 but in the air. Air Race 1 pits 8 airplanes against each other at speeds of 450 km/h (280 mph) on a slightly longer circuit.
Existing gas-powered Air Race 1 planes are being converted to electricity at the University of Nottingham. The University is investing £13m (about $16.8 million or €14.8 million) in the Beacons of Excellence program. According to University of Nottingham Research Fellow, Richard Glassock: “There is no electric racing category running at the moment for aeroplanes in which people fly.”
Each year one host city will be home to the Air Race E World Cup and other races will be held in other cities as stand-alone cup events.
Stay tuned as we will speak to Jeff Zaltman next week for a follow up. One of the first questions I will ask him is, do we still say “smoke on?”
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