Czech Republic Flies Electric Sportplane

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

Sold in America as the SportStar Light Sport Aircraft (LSA), the Czech all-metal two-seater has a 28 foot, 5 inch wingspan, a maximum takeoff weight of 1,320 pounds typical of LSAs, and is normally powered by a Rotax four-cylinder engine.

The latest version of this airplane, though, took flight in Kunovice, Czech Republic on March 28, powered by a Rotex motor The SportStar EPOS (Electric POwered Small Aircraft) is derived from Evektor’s RTC, and carries a 50 kilowatt (67 horsepower) RE X90-7 motor made by Rotex Electric, which crafts everything from small model aircraft motors to (as shown on their web site) 40 kilowatt (53.6 hp) outrunner-appearing motors for electric vehicle use.  The X90 designation would seem to indicate a larger, more powerful model, although that model is not shown on the Rotex web site.  For possible interpolation, the displayed 40 kW model weighs only 7.5 kilograms (16.5 pounds), a healthy power-to-weight ratio.  Their range of motors is slated for use in gliders, motorized rogallos or powered paragliders.

Evektor and Rotex were not alone in the effort, with cooperation from the Czech Light Aircraft Association, a propeller from the Aerospace Research and Test Establishment, motor controller from MGM compro and a motor function display from the Faculty of Information Technology of Brno University of Technology.

The airplane has been optimized with a longer, trapezoidal wing.  Piloted by factory pilot Radek Surý, the little Evektor went through brief taxiing tests, then made a 10-minute first flight and returned for a full-stop landing.  Surý made a second flight immediately afterwards and reached a total flight time of about 30 minutes.

Evektor personnel shared their thoughts on the implementation of this new technology.  EPOS project Ing. Martin Drštička said, “I am glad that we are among the first companies in the world, who managed to realize the idea of electric motor powered sport aircraft on the level of machine heading toward serial production. I perceive a close parallel with the automotive industry. In that field, electromobility also struggles for its place on the market, which it deserves, but in doing so it must overcome a number of technical problems. I am convinced that the range of potential of electric driven sport aircraft is very wide.”

“The philosophy of Evektor includes pushing the boundaries of technical possibilities and finding new solutions not only in the field of aircraft design, but also in other industrial sectors,” Managing Director Václav Zajíc explained. “Through the development of electrically powered aircraft we have proved our developmental potential and enthusiasm of our employees for new technologies and design concepts. Now we have to go through the period of tests and improvement of technical parameters which will enable us to achieve our goal – a fully operational sport aircraft powered by an electric motor.”

With the goal of developing an aircraft useable for training and private ownership, Evektor assumes a role very much like that of Pipistrel.  People like Stephan Boutenko and his Alternair Amp project are attempting similar programs without government funding and technical assistance.  Will American manufacturers and academics take up this challenge and provide some domestic competition?

The aircraft will be presented to the public for the first time at Europe’s largest aviation exhibition Aero Friedrichshafen, which will be held from 24th to 27th April 2013.

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