The last few weeks have seen a some notable achievements for electric powered, and by association battery equipped, vehicles.
Formula E Series 2015
Completion of the inaugural Formula E championship has shown that electric cars can be raced and provide an appealing spectacle. It may not have the raw noise and smell of Formula 1, but it has provided good entertainment along with a few thrills and spills. The announcement that the championship winner qualifies for a racing super licence shows the prestige that has been attached to this formula. The challenge now lies with keeping the interest going. The limitation of the amount of energy the car can carry, resulting in a car change mid race, is a long standing challenge. The balance between having a battery designed for power (for acceleration) and energy (for range) are clearly shown in the series.
Electric Power Across The Ocean
Congratulations also to the Solar Impulse team. The achievement of the safe completion of the first half of the Pacific crossing is another example of how electric powered vehicles are evolving. Batteries are of course a vital part of the overall design of the aircraft, and would have been at the core of the vehicle design. This shows how important it is to consider the provision of energy and energy storage at the early stages of development work. As experience is gained, the challenge will not be the range and endurance of the aircraft, but the ability to carry the human pilot in conditions that can be tolerated.
Electric Power For Fun
We are not going to be flying off on our summer holidays in an electric aircraft soon, but for recreational flying the day of the electric aircraft is fast approaching. At the Paris Air Show in June, Airbus displayed the ‘E-Fan’ aircraft also seen at Farnborough and Berlin shows the previous year. Both the E-Fan, and the electric Cri-Cri, made crossings of the English Channel early in July using stored energy from batteries. There has also been the two-way return crossing of the Alps by Elektra One Solar combining solar power with pre-charged lithium ion batteries. With a range of just over 300 miles in still air, and cruising at just over 60mph, it will probably outlast the pilots endurance! Developments of the E-Fan and Elektra One have been mapped out, including multi seat versions.
Even though not grabbing the headlines of Formula E or Solar Impulse, these achievements are just as important because they show that it is possible to have practical, small, electric aircraft.