Air Race E Series Wants To Rekindle Old Airplane Races With Electricity
What a wild first year it’s been for the highly entertaining electric Air Race E, which is gearing up for its first year of races — targeted for 2020. My last conversation with Jeff Zaltman, Air Race E’s CEO, showed me that the group is about as dynamic as its airplanes maneuvering in the sky.
“It has been an amazing 12 months for all the team at Air Race E and we are working like crazy in the background to make the world’s first all-electric airplane race a fantastic spectacle.
“The project has gained support from across the globe and the huge partners that have come on board in the last year serve to highlight the significance of the electric aviation industry and its development for the future.”
This past year was spent grouping the airplanes, race pilots, aviation engineers, and all sports associations involved while opening a test center in Europe. Finally, a “plug and play” electric motor, battery, and electric propulsion system was designed which can be retrofitted onto existing conventional Air Race 1 plane.
Jeff told me that the original gas-powered Air Race 1 started in 2013, picked up in 2015, and continues to grow bigger. He said that Air Race E became a possibility once he and his team realized all the ingredients for a race were there already — sanctioning bodies, engineers, PR teams, and overall expertise to deliver it. They just needed to be put together into an international airplane race series.
The idea behind the open series lies with early air races in the ’20s and ’30s, which were followed by hundreds and thousands of people in a rather informal manner. Air Race E is re-launching this with the electric open platform drivetrain.
The Reno Air Show already has an official relationship with Air Race 1 with 6 different races, which means Air Race E would be 7th.
Lastly, I asked Jeff if there was anything going on with the Rolls-Royce ACCEL e-plane racer, but he told me there was nothing formal with them — although, he welcomes a future collaboration. He concluded by saying that excitement of the race would be captured by the various configurations in the race, which means that some planes will be faster on straight lines, other more maneuverable. Let the racing begin!
This last point is of particular importance, as it means a lineup of different electric airplanes each good at a specific task will have to duke it out between pylons. In the end, launching an electric flight series when the technology is still in its infancy is daunting but will accelerate sustainable aviation and motorsports in the future. So far, Air Race E is the world’s first and only all-electric airplane racing championship.
Jeff told me he decided to base Air Race E on the well-proven Motorsport format, such as formula one air racing or Air Race 1. This high-adrenaline, very fast-paced, multi-plane race on a closed circuit around six pylons meters above the ground is faster than any land-based sport you can witness. It is spectacular! Each plane will be driven by a propeller powered by an electric motor.
We’ll leave the last words to Grazia Vittadini, Chief Technology Officer of Airbus.
“We want to motivate manufacturers to showcase their technologies across the full spectrum of electric propulsion systems and components.
“This partnership enables us to demonstrate our commitment to staying at the leading edge of electric propulsion and developing a new ecosystem.”