Pipistrel Tests Hybrid HYPSTAIR
Until battery technology reaches the energy density potential of petroleum, a practical, long-range electric airplane will remain elusive. For aircraft designers today the next best thing is a series hybrid powerplant that mates an electric motor with an internal combustion engine-driven generator. That's why the Seimens-developed HYPSTAIR hybrid powerplant is significant in the pursuit of reduced fuel consumption, improved reliability, and greener flight.
The concept of a series hybrid drive has been around for more than a century. Diesel electric drives have propelled locomotives, submarines, and marine vessels for decades. Ferdinand Porsche used it in his failed WW2 prototype Tiger tank developed for the German Wehrmacht.
Fast forward to 2010 when General Motors uses it to power their Chevrolet Volt extended range electric car. Now half a decade on and the technology has now reached the level were it can reliably power an airplane, perhaps the most critical weight-to-power application to date.
Based in Ajdovscina, Slovenia, aircraft maker Pipistrel recently ran its first tests of what is called the HYPSTAIR hybrid engine developed by Seimens. Capable of developing 200kW at take-off and 150kW at cruise, the engine can run in several different modes: battery-only, generator (ICE)-only, and hybrid, combining the two. The prototype engine is mounted to the fuselage of Pipistrel's sleek Panthera airframe.
The video below features the engine being tested in various stages prior to future flight tests. The engine will make its first international appearance at the Sustainable Aviation Symposium in San Francisco on May 6 and 7.
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