EAS IX: Chip Erwin Gets Personal with Electric Flying

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 1 Comment

Light Sport Aircraft (LSA), alas, haven’t lived up to their early hype, 100 manufacturers selling only 235 units in the United States last year.  That bothers Chip Erwin, who would like a Personal Sport Aircraft (PSA) option.  He’s working through his company, Aeromarine LSA, to do something about that. Chip explains that high prices for LSAs, brought on by doubling Rotax prices over the last decade and quadrupling of once cheap European labor rates, has put what were to be $50,000 airplanes into the $150,000 price range, barely able to compete with used Cessnas and Pipers. Having demonstrated two-stroke engines and an Electravia motor on his imported Zigolo ultralight glider, he has displayed an alternative motor designed by Don Lineback, …

Less Expensive Batteries May Lead to More Homebuilt Electric Airplanes

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

It came as somewhat of a shock that high-quality lithium battery prices could drop low enough to encourage electric aircraft developers an opportunity to “scrounge” in the style of the original home-built airplane builders.  Early aircraft “home-builders” often cannibalized war-surplus aircraft or wrecks of private planes for parts and materials that could be adapted into their own designs.  Ground power units (GPUs), for instance, became an early supply point for engine cores that could be converted to aircraft use – possible on “Experimental” homebuilts, although frowned upon by the FAA for factory-builts. Your editor thought at one point that auto wrecking yards might provide a source of used batteries for experimental electric airplanes, but the thought of all the internal …

Better Batteries: Nickel Cobalt Manganese from Ricardo and Axeon

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Ricardo and Allied Vehicles, a British engineering firm known for its work with racing vehicles and KERS technology, has announced an alliance with European battery manufacturer Axeon to produce a Nickel Cobalt Manganese (NCM) battery which would reputedly provide 35-percent greater range to electric vehicles than “existing technologies at the same weight.” The new battery would require “50 percent less volume and 30 percent less mass when compared to Lithium Iron Phosphate chemistry at cell level,” according to the Richardo fourth quarter, 2011 newsletter. Green Car Congress reports, “Electrochemically, the performance is superior to Lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) and Lithium cobalt oxide (LiCoO2) in terms of capacity and therefore energy density. In  terms of rate capability and therefore power density …

Early Warning for Li-Pos

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 2 Comments

Nobody wants an airplane fire.  You’re way up in the air, can’t pull over to the curb, and have limited means of quelling the flames.  The most energy-dense batteries, based on lithium chemistries, are subject to failure from physical and electrical abuse.  Most cells run through their promised cycle life without giving a hint of trouble, but sometimes fate or mischance leads to disaster. Battery alternatives with lower risk usually possess lower energy and/or power density, crucial to use in aircraft, since weight is usually a primary consideration in vehicle design. Lithium fires are quite often spectacular, probably a consideration that prompts Dale Kramer to recharge his 100 pounds of cells in his fireplace – with the flue wide open.  …

An Electric Helicopter Lifts Off – Briefly

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 4 Comments

Gizmag apparently beat everybody to this story, with even Popular Science quoting from the online gadget hunter’s web site. They report that in mid-August 2011, Pascal Chretien piloted his creation, a coaxial rotor, twin Lynch-motored helicopter that he built for Solution F, a Swiss racing engine development firm.  He performed the flight “in the presence of a court appointed witness,” according to a press release from Lithium Balance, the firm that supplied the battery management system (BMS) for and acted as consultants to the project.  The “first” Chretien claims is a carefully parsed one, an “untethered, fully electric manned helicopter flight in a prototype machine.”  The fact that he designed and built a unique machine and flew it in a …