Beam Me Up: Flying on Sunshine™

Dean Sigler Batteries, Electric Aircraft Components, Electric Powerplants, Solar Power, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

We recently reported on two electrically-powered cross-country flights for which the big issue was lack of battery-charging facilities at airports along the way.  Both “teams” had their chargers carried by an accompanying airplane or automobile.  Now, with a public demonstration a Beam Global charger at Reedley Municipal Airport in Fresno County, California, we see a no-fuss way to bring EV charging to aviation – even in remote locations.

Beam Global premises its installations on a foursome of negatives: No permitting, no construction, no electrical work, and no utility bill.  Installation, if one believes Beam’s video, is almost a non-event.

Beam, formerly Envision Solar, produces pre-fabricated EV ARC solar-powered charging stations.  Like a vacation camper, the ARCs can be towed right onto a level piece of property and dropped off.   The units are self-contained and can produce electricity from the sheltering overhead solar panels.  A driver or pilot can park on or next to the metal platform and charge their electric car, motorcycle, or even airplane.   Demonstrated in late October when Beam Global CEO Desmond Wheatley, and pilot Joseph Oldham charged a Pipistrel Alpha Electro and took flight, the system works well and can charge the pilots’ cars while the aviators are in the sky.

Joseph Oldham is the founder of New Vision Aviation, “a 501 (c) 3 non-profit charitable organization dedicated to providing residents and youth from disadvantaged communities in the San Joaquin Valley with the opportunity to experience flight and begin training for careers in aviation.”  Because of their low operating costs, New Vision chose Pipistrel Alpha Electros as their training vehicles, and awaits full certification to allow their use in an educational program.

Joseph Oldham and Desmond Wheatley stand next to one of four NVA Pipistrel Alpha Electros which will soon be training young pilots.  Note the Pipistrel, Wheatley’s motorcycle and Oldham’s Tesla 3 share the same charging station.

Oldham took Beam Global CEO, Desmond Wheatley for a trip around the patch as an active participant in the first “Flying on Sunshine™” event, powered by electricity that is “off-grid, sustainably generated, [and] locally stored.”  Wheatley reflected on the importance of the event. “The electrification of transportation is taking to the skies, powered by Beam Global. With 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions coming from transportation in California, it’s imperative to push the envelope in every form of mobility.  Whether it has two, four or 18 wheels, a propeller or four rotors, Beam is developing sustainable solutions to deliver clean mobility to all. An important differentiator for us is that our products can charge any form of transportation, enabling us to take advantage of growth across this massive but diverse sector.”

Flying on Sunshine may become a common label in the skies above the San Joaquin Valley

Beam describes the ARC solar charging station and its potential: “The EV ARC™ 2020 being used to power the Pipistrel plane is equipped with [two] Enel X JuiceBox® Pro EV chargers and one (unspecified) 15kW aircraft charger and is capable of charging two vehicles and one electric plane. 100-pertcent solar-powered EV ARC™ units are off-grid so require no permitting, no construction, no electrical work and generate no utility bill. Designed to fit in a standard parking space, without reducing available parking, the small footprint and construction-free deployment does not disrupt city or airport planning efforts and can be rapidly deployed. Beam Global EV charging products enable municipalities and states to build zero-emissions infrastructure that is rapidly scalable as charging needs evolve.”

The latter point will be of interest to municipalities that were otherwise concerned with the possibility of overwhelming the grid when electric vehicles became a dominant factor.  Beam’s web site is light on details as to who pays and how they are charged, but that may vary by user.  Likewise, charger plugs can be varied as required.

Oldham’s organization sees the human potential in the enterprise.  “NVA is an all-volunteer organization and believes that investing in ‘human capital’ is the best ROI possible for our communities and our world!!  That is why we exist and why our team is investing our time, money, and resources into helping open doors for young people that otherwise would not be possible on their own.”  We can hardly wait to see how many new pilots are beamed up in the near future.

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