PHOTO CAPTION: Pipistrel Panthera will offer three propulsion system options including all-electric and hybrid engines.

Pipistrel Plans 4-Place E-Plane

While other light aircraft companies are racing to offer two-place electric airplanes, Slovenia's Pipistrel is working on being the first to built a four-place model: the Panthera.

Published: 15-Dec-2015

When it comes to expertise in the engineering advanced electric airplanes, a tiny Slovenian company has few peers. Named for the Slovenian term of 'bat', Pipistrel was one of the first manufacturers to offer an electric-powered aircraft, the Taurus motorglider. By mating two of its Taurus fuselages to create the 'G4' model, the Ajdovscina-based company won the $1.35 million NASA Green Flight Challenge in 2011. That flight achieved remarkable efficiency that leaves even the best electric car in the dust, flying 650 kilometres (400 miles) in two hours time at an average speed of 172 km/h (107 mph). In fact, it inspired Pipistrel founder Ivo Boscarol to comment:

"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 kilometres at a speed of 200 kilometres per hour."

Now the company is working on using its more than two decades of experience to build the first all-electric four-place aircraft based on its ultra-sleek Panthera, pictured above. According to the company's website, it is working on two electric drive versions: a 145kW hybrid model and a 145kW all-electric version. Like the Chevrolet Volt, the hybrid version will use an onboard generator. It's battery pack will enable zero-emission take-offs and landings using the gasoline engine generator in the air to recharge the battery pack, which powers the plane's electric propulsion motor.

Referring to the all-electric version, the company states...

"This version of Panthera with its pure-electric 145 kW powertrain is a treat for the high-tech enthusiasts and those to whom the environment matters. The goal is to demonstrate the ability of covering 400 km (215 NM), quietly, efficiently, with absolutely zero emissions and for a fraction of cost. The platform is open and ready to except future generations of battery technologies, which will increase the operating range. Electric flight is ready and Panthera Electro will hopefully shift the authorities to rightfully accept electric flight and enable clean, quiet and cheap flight."

The hybrid model is estimated to have a range up to 1,200 km or 600 nautical miles (NM) compared to the 1,900 km (1,025 NM) for the gasoline version. Electric range is a more modest 400 km or 215 NM.

Pricing and availability have not yet been announced.

Pipistrel isn't the only company working on an electric airplane. China's Shenyang Aerospace University reportedly is nearing production of its RX1E, pictured below. Like most other e-planes, it is a two-place model intended to be used primarily as a flight trainer.

RX1E electric airplane

Addendum: It would appear the reference to flying 400 miles is incorrect based on other sources, including the company website, which states the flight was just under 200 miles. The "400" reference may have been the original reporter'serror based on the aircraft's energy efficiency equivalent of just over 400 MPGe.

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