Didier Esteyne and EADS turned heads at the 2011 Paris Air Show when they debuted the the world's first all-electric airplane, the single-seat Cri-Cri. Fast forward two years, and the miniscule Cri-Cri has grown into a sleek tandem-seat training craft that's as green as it is acrobatic.
Dubbed the E-Fan, this Light Sport Aircraft prototype is 21 feet long, has a 31-foot wingspan, and weighs about 1,212 pounds. Esteyne and EADS (the parent company of Airbus) have spent more than eight months developing the platform with funding from French civil aviation authority, among others.
It's powered by 250 volt, 40 amp-hour Li-ion battery packs in the bases of the wings that drive a pair of 1.5kN electrical engines that spin the ducted fans, rather than the conventional propellers, to provide thrust. This offers significant energy savings, less noise and danger, according to Esteyne, albeit at the cost of some power. "This plane, with these dimensions, can fly with 20 kilowatts [per side], easy,” he told Wired. That should be enough for an hour's flight at 110 mph.
To further improve its energy efficiency, the E-Fan is outfitted with a powered main landing gear that allows the plane to taxi without running the fans as well as help get the plane up to takeoff speed with a 35MPH boost.
Like it's tiny predecessor, the E-Fan can handle a bit of aerial acrobatics. Sure, barrel rolling and loop-de-looping through the wild blue yonder is way fun, it also cuts the flight time in half to just 30 minutes.
While the plane hasn't actually ever "flown" yet, it has successfully completed taxi and ground testing with flight testing to commence later this year. If it's successful, "we believe that the E-Fan demonstrator is an ideal platform that could be eventually matured, certified to and marketed as an aircraft for pilot training,” explained Jean Botti, CTO of EADS. Of course that'd require the FAA and civil air authorities the world over to enact new regulations for electric aircraft first, though it's got to be easier than writing the new rules for UAVs. [Cleantechnica - EV World - AV Web - Gas 2 - Image: EADS]