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Volta Volaré's futuristic GT4 e-hybrid airplane available for order

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May 4, 2012

Volta Volaré has begun taking orders for its four-seater GT4 hybrid private aircraft it ca...

Volta Volaré has begun taking orders for its four-seater GT4 hybrid private aircraft it calls 'most technologically advanced private aircraft available anywhere on Earth'

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Volta Volaré has begun taking orders for its four-seater GT4 hybrid private aircraft it calls "the most technologically advanced private aircraft available anywhere on Earth." Though the GT4 is perfectly capable of taking off and flying powered only electrically, a gas engine starts when the airplane's battery drops to 25 percent capacity in order to recharge it mid-flight. Surprisingly, perhaps, Volta Volaré makes a strong economic case for the GT4. Because the powertrain has only one moving part - the motor or "EViation Drive" - the company claims the need for maintenance is reduced significantly, offering increases in TBO (time between overhaul) by up to a factor of ten when compared to a combustion engine.

It also claims that the EViation Drive "delivers more torque and horsepower than any 20th century internal combustion engine," but since the 21st century is now at least 11 years old, that seems a somewhat arbitrary comparison.

Volta Volaré's spec sheet makes somewhat confusing reading (an energy storage system sized in kilowatts doesn't make much sense to me, for instance), but seems to suggest the EViation Drive delivers 220 kW (300 hp), while the "range extension generator" dishes out about 130 kW (180 hp) - though presumably the only use this can be put to is recharging the plane's batteries.

The performance-based specifications are rather clearer:

  • Take Off Distance: 1400 ft (430 m)
  • Rate of Climb: 1800 ft/min (550 m/min)
  • Landing Distance: 1500 ft (460 m)
  • Cruise: 160 knots (296 km/h) @ 12,500 ft
  • Ceiling: 24,000 ft
  • Maximum speed (sea level): 310 knots (574 km/h) - which makes it significantly faster than the Cessna Corvalis TTX
  • Minimum Speed: 65 knots (120 km/h)
  • Landing Speed: 75 knots (139 km/h)
  • Powertrain-wise, I'm more inclined to look at Popsci's spec reporting following its interview with Volta Volaré CEO Paul Peterson. "The GT4’s electric motor, which is made from the combined cores of two smaller motors, sits in a sealed aluminum housing," it reports. "It can generate 600 peak horsepower [450 kW] and sustain 400 horsepower [300 kW] throughout flight."

    Popsci additionally reports that the energy storage system consists of a 900-pound (408 kg) lithium-polymer battery comprising 236 cells, which is a significant chunk of the GT4's overall empty weight of 2,600 pounds (1,179 kg). The battery's recharged by a 1.5-liter gasoline engine fueled from a 23-gallon (105-liter) tank. Combined these give the GT4 a reported range of 1,000 nautical miles (1,852 km).

    Absolutely certain, however, is that the GT4 is striking in outward appearance, though whether it appeals to all tastes remains to be seen. I like it. The swept wings and its various angular fins and upturned points give it a look that is of the future, while the shape of the fuselage and windows are almost classical. The metallic finish (actually hand-crafted carbon fiber) somehow manages to be both forward and backward-looking at the same time, which is a neat trick. The future-neoclassical look is completed by that unusual rear-facing push configuration propeller (as seen on the Firebird intel airplane we looked at this time last year).

    The interior sounds almost as advanced as the powertain. Volta Volaré says the cockpit features touchscreen glass with a synthetic vision system and optional HUD. Meanwhile passengers bored with the novelty of flying aboard a hybrid airplane can distract themselves with the pull-down screens, fold-away table-tops and various apertures available to them, including AV jacks, plug sockets, USB ports. It's less obvious at this point what sort of interactive/entertainment system these things connect up to.

    A Volta Volaré GT4 will set you back a mere US$495,000. Eleven remain for purchase this year, while 36 more are slated for 2013.

    Sources: Volta Volaré, Popsci

    About the Author
    James Holloway James lives in East London where he punctuates endless tea drinking with freelance writing and meteorological angst. Unlocking Every Extend Extra Extreme’s “Master of Extreme” achievement was the fourth proudest moment of his life.   All articles by James Holloway
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    11 Comments

    I believe the maximum speed quoted is VNE, or never exceed speed, not max cruise. It cruises at 160kts which is slower than the Corvalis TTX.

    Dave M
    4th May, 2012 @ 10:40 am PDT

    The fuselage is clearly from the Velocity kit plane, shown here: http://www.velocityaircraft.com/the-airplanes.html.

    Not a bad choice. I like canard, pusher aircraft.

    Lumen
    5th May, 2012 @ 12:21 pm PDT

    I want one, now off to figure out how to finance a transportation device that costs 4 times the value of my home

    Bill Bennett
    5th May, 2012 @ 07:00 pm PDT

    Seems silly in an aircraft where weight is at a premium to have a 1.5l reserve gasoline engine (which would weigh around 250kg) and 105l fuel tank adding a further 80kg or so, for a total weight burden of around 330kg. Thats more than 2/3 the weight of the electric bateries, wouldnt it be better to just add 330kg more batteries?

    Has one of these actually been observed in flight yet? I will believe the hype once I see the verified specs in a respected aviation journal.

    Russell Vonthien
    6th May, 2012 @ 10:22 am PDT

    Looks like the passengers--and the pilot to a lesser degree--can hardly do any sightseeing as the wings and canards obstruct most of the view of the ground.

    Strauski
    7th May, 2012 @ 06:47 am PDT

    Talk about bass ackwards!! The engine should be small at whatever needed for level flight at the needed speed and no larger. The EV part should just be used to climb out on take-off to altitude then let the ICE do what it's most eff at, cont max power.

    Drop the battery count by 50% or more and 100hp ICe should do at 100 lbs clutched to the e motor/prop. Then near the end of the flight turn off the motor and use most of the charge left then recharge it on decent by windmilling the prop would give one the lower fuel costs and safety.

    Plus one doesn't waste the fuel needed to prevent the engine from freezing on desent and the damage that does to aircraft engines now.

    jerryd
    7th May, 2012 @ 10:14 am PDT

    So does it have 300kW or 220kW? Ha. With a 130kW "generator", this plane effectively has about 115kW with losses. You will likely expend most of your "surplus" battery power on takeoff and then be limited to the lower power level. I may be completely wrong, but I doubt that this plane with 4 persons onboard will be able to fly safely with only 115kW.

    SteveO
    7th May, 2012 @ 12:49 pm PDT

    Considering that the hybrid concept was intended to be better match the powerplant to average required output while allowing for peak output much higher for short bursts as in stop-and-go traffic, I'm at a loss as to why the hybrid concept is finding its way into both the marine and aviation arenas. Also, no other powerplant can match the energy density of an ICE with fuel supply. Seems like a step backwards EXCEPT for the in the TBO rating.

    Burnerjack
    7th May, 2012 @ 06:02 pm PDT

    Just another crash and burn project. There is simply not enough demand for an expensive airplane. There are plenty out there.

    starider
    26th May, 2012 @ 07:55 am PDT

    We have a high efficiency, multifuel, inexpensive, light, scalable, extremely long duty cycle turbine. Whether its used to hybridize an Electric vehicle, plane, boat, or have a direct transmission is irrelevant. Can be mass manufactured in country without outsourcing at a fractional price of competing reciprocals or turbines. We are considering applications, teaming partner, ...

    Sannerwind@gmail.com

    Sannerwind
    26th May, 2012 @ 04:19 pm PDT

    I would buy it if I had the cash and triple the wing span and a 800hp motor w/more advanced batter packs at 500-cells and lighter, 100gal gas tank, 2lt gasoline vapour engine and cruise at 25k ft around the world easily.

    Juan Antonio Ernesto
    30th May, 2012 @ 10:24 am PDT
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