“Ultra-light, fast and cheap: more than a century after the Wright brothers flew the world’s first powered aircraft, a small Slovenian company now hopes to revolutionize the aviation industry with its award-winning electric planes.
Pipistrel’s pioneering Taurus Electro is seen as a breath of fresh air in a sector responsible for 13 percent of carbon dioxide emissions from all transport sources.
Launched in 2007, around 20 orders are now put in every year for the two-seater plane, which is produced in a factory in the town of Ajdovscina, close to the Italian border.
The €110,000 ($120,770) price tag is offset by the plane’s inexpensive maintenance: at 70 cents an hour, the Taurus is 10 times cheaper to run than traditional twin-seater planes, according to Pipistrel.
Simplicity is key: you charge the battery, hop inside the cockpit and hit the “on” button to activate the fuselage’s propeller.
The large-winged aircraft can thrust itself to an altitude of 2,000 meters (6,500 feet), after which the engine is retracted and the Taurus glides across the sky as a sailplane.
“You have just two buttons, up and down and full power, but you can always switch off immediately when you need to slow down the aircraft,” explained pilot Nejc Faganelj, soaring high above the Slovenian countryside on a sunny winter’s day.
But behind the deceptively easy usage lies a highly complex design. The most crucial element — and biggest challenge — is the lithium battery, which needs to be light yet sturdy so that it doesn’t catch fire if it overheats.
“To copy a design from the car industry is not that difficult. But to make something that is lighter, more efficient — that is definitely something that has not been done before,” said Pipistrel engineer Jure Tomaciz.
Now Pipistrel has even loftier ambitions: to sell the world’s first electric four-seater plane.
Its Taurus G4 prototype — built by combining two twin-seaters — won NASA’s prestigious Green Flight award in 2011, worth $1.35 million.
The plane covered 650 km (400 miles) in the space of two hours with an average speed of 172 kph.
“The car industry, with all the money it has at its disposal, and practically no weight limitation, even today isn’t capable of producing an electric car that would take four passengers for 600 km at a speed of 200 kph,” Pipistrel’s founder, Ivo Boscarol said.
“We did that with our electric plane,” he added. (Source – Grendz)
Great vision and invention, in line with COP21!
We need more entrepreneurs like that! What do you think?
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