US$145,000 Elektra One and SunAirport hangar take recreational flying off-the-grid
By Mike Hanlon
August 3, 2011
PC-Aero's single-seat Elektra One electric Ultralight is one of the most efficient transportation devices ever conceived. It's lightweight composite construction and highly efficient aerodynamics enable it to be powered by a modest 13.5 kW electric engine. The whisper-quiet Elektra One can fly for three hours, cruise at 160 km/h and has a range of 500 kilometers.
Whatsmore, its grand vision for taking recreational flying off-the-grid has won it the Lindbergh Prize for Electric Aircraft Vision Award. The award's premise is that having a holistic plan for energy management is critical for the widespread adoption of electric propulsion and it's not hard to see why the Elektra won got the gong.
The Elektra One's hangar roof has 20 square meters of Solarworld photovoltaic cells incorporated, providing zero emissions power for both the aircraft and hangar. The complete system (plane plus "SunAirport" hangar) is expected to hit the market for less than EUR100,000 (US$145,000) in early 2012 once certification is completed.
Lindbergh Electric Aircraft Prize (LEAP) founder Erik Lindbergh announced the award at the SolarWorld-sponsored World Electric Aircraft Symposium at EAA's AirVenture last week. LEAP's programs are designed to recognize, inspire and incentivize the innovation that will drive aviation's culture, economy and future.
LEAP's major backer is none other than Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, renewing a heritage of collaboration between the Lindbergh and Sikorsky families with a view to influencing the future of flight.
The Elektra One is a single-seat electric aircraft in the German Ultralight LTF-UL-class. It's composite construction gives the plane an extremely light weight of just 100 kg without the batteries (they weigh another 100 kg) and highly efficient aerodynamics enable it to be powered by a 13.5 kW brushless electric engine. Garmany's Geiger Engineering developed the electric drive unit which includes the HPD 13.5 (16 kW maximum power) electric motor, controller, battery management system and propeller.
As the Elektra One was designed for minimum energy requirements at 160 km/h, once airborne, it is remarkably frugal with its use of energy. It can remain airborne for three hours and its claimed range has now increased to 500 kilometers. PC-Aero claims that the system offers operational costs per hour of less than EUR 35 or EUR 0.2 per km, which is a lot less than a roadgoing car.
Though the driving force and design of the Elektra One emanated from PC-Aero's founder Calin Gologan, the team is a star-studded one, including team leader Einar Enevoldson, a 30 year veteran NASA-test pilot, engineer and test pilot. Well known test pilot Jon Karkow flew the Elektra One on its maiden flight on March 19 this year in Augsburg (Germany).
Karkow was project leader and test pilot for the around-the-world Virgin Global Flyer that won him a 2006 Aeronautics Laureate Award from Aviation Week & Space Technology, and more recently, he served as the Technical Program Manager for Virgin Galactic's commercial space program at Scaled Composites. Karkow checked flight performance and characteristics and briefed the German test pilot Norbert Lorenzen for the next flight on March 21.
Forty-eight year old Karkow is expected to fly the Elektra One in the US$1.5 million NASA CAFE Green Flight Challenge in California in September 2011.
Apart from significantly reducing the costs of flying an ultralight, one of the Elektra One's greatest advantages is its very low level of noise, making it ideal for flying clubs and recreational flyers near residential areas. The propeller speed is optimized for low noise too. Cruising at 160 km/h, the propeller is rotating at just 1400 RPM. At this speed, PC-Aero claims it makes one fifth of the noise of a classic light aircraft and half the noise of an ultralight.
"This is an electrifying time," said Erik Lindbergh in announcing the award. "Visionaries are taking risks. The field is alive with novel approaches and rich in activity and experimentation. With continued intellectual and financial investments, great opportunity exists for technological advancements that could apply well beyond electric aircraft."
PC-Aero President and evangelist Calin Gologan makes no bones about the company's ultimate vision when he says, "this is the future of leisure aviation as a bridge to the next step: electric transportation."
Elektra One specifications: