Australia's first electric plane takes to the skies

| 04.01,18. 07:34 PM |


Australia's first electric plane takes to the skies



Photo: Pilot Robert Bodley will be training other pilots to fly the electric plane. (ABC News: Elicia Kennedy)



Australia's first electric aircraft has begun test flights at Perth's Jandakot Airport, amid hopes the plane will be flying to nearby Rottnest Island within months.

The two-seater single-engine Pipistrel Alpha Electro has two batteries that can keep the plane in the air for an hour, with an extra 30 minutes in reserve.

The team behind the plane says while there are environmental benefits in doing away with jet fuel, electric planes are also safer and easier to fly.

"Electric propulsion is a lot simpler than a petrol engine," Electro.Aero founder Joshua Portlock said.

"Inside a petrol engine you have hundreds of moving parts.

"In this aircraft you have one switch to turn the aircraft on and one throttle lever to fly."

The engine is powered by two lithium-ion batteries, similar to those used in the Tesla electric car.

There is no gear box or multiple moving engine parts —instead the plane's motor attaches directly to the propeller.

Rather than a fuel gauge, a panel tells the pilot the amount of power left in the battery, and estimated minutes of flight time, based on the throttle position.

The batteries are re-energised in about an hour by a supercharger based at the Jandakot airfield.

Mr Portlock claims electric planes will prove a safer alternative to conventional fuel-powered aircraft because of their simplicity.

"You are dealing with 50 years (of) engine technology in aircraft, so that complexity adds to the risk of flying and the time it takes to learn to fly," he said.

But although they are constantly improving, batteries remain limited in the amount of energy they can store.

The batteries in this plane are expected to be viable for about 1000 flying hours.

But the cost of flying and maintenance is significantly cheaper.

It costs about $3 an hour to run the plane's engine, one-tenth the cost of a fuel engine.

The plane uses 110 kilowatts of power to take off and climb to altitude.

But once it is gliding, the motor switches off, and like an electric car, it is almost silent.

"It's more comfortable," pilot Robert Bodley said.

"The vibration is less, the heating is less, it's a more stable aircraft as well."

In mid-January Mr Bodley will begin training local pilots to fly the single-engine electric plane, with registered pilots required to complete a familiarisation flight before flying solo.

Mr Portlock said the group had held discussions with the Rottnest Island Authority to install a supercharger to tap into its solar array, allowing pilots to fly the plane to the island.

Future plans include electric air-taxis capable of carrying up to five people to the holiday destination.

abc


(Votes: 0)

Other News

Sunshine Coast police taser 15-year-old boy during drug-fuelled episode Boy, 5, hit by a reversing car in a Mosman car park Wild storm wreaks havoc on NSW north coast, with more storms forecast Australian housing prices drop, led by Sydney and Darwin slowdown Falls Festival Tasmania: Police charge man over sexual assault after citizen's arrest African gang crime 'out of control' in Melbourne: Greg Hunt Autistic boy goes missing from Sydney home Serious concerns for 11-year-old who vanished from his backyard Hawkesbury River seaplane crash: Six people killed after aircraft goes down near Cowan New Year's Eve: 'Most technologically advanced' Sydney fireworks show wows 1 billion people worldwide New Year's Eve Sydney: Revellers line up to spend 40 hours waiting to celebrate arrival of 2018 Mother allegedly on meth when Adelaide Hills car crash killed young son Child's screams scare off would-be abductor outside central Queensland hotel Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull fined $250 for not wearing life jacket on boat Queensland toddler dies after becoming trapped under car driven by father Annabelle Falkholt dies after Boxing Day crash, actress sister Jessica Falkholt remains critical One dead after boat capsize near Kurnell in Sydney's south Man dies after trapped in charity clothing bin Jessica Falkholt: Director hails 'rising star' actress who is fighting for life after crash that killed her parents Narwee Train Station Upgrade with Premier Gladys Berejiklian Cyclone Hilda brings destruction to Broome in northern WA, more wild weather to come أغلى الاحياء في أستراليا لعام 2017 Home and Away actress Jessica Falkholt fighting for life after triple-fatal Boxing Day crash Opening of Narwee Train Station: Thursday, 28 December 2017, 10.00am Why is petrol so expensive? Global oil deals and the Reserve Bank's dilemma Flinders Street car attack: Accused driver Saeed Noori may have psychiatric illness, court hears Cheltenham fire brought under control near golf course in Melbourne's south-east 10yo boy shot in attempted robbery in Browns Plains Tragedy as woman killed in house fire a day after Christmas Queensland weather: Severe storms, showers forecast for Boxing Day Princes Highway crash: Three dead, two critically injured at Sussex Inlet, NSW