The past couple of years has seen solar powered flight evolve in leaps and bounds, but most of the aircraft have been experimental projects with massive wingspans to cater for the solar panels required to provide the power needed.
Elektra One is a comparatively tiny single seat electric aircraft with a fly time of 4 hours and a range of 500 km. Instead of being directly powered by solar energy, it will come complete with a solar panel-studded hangar to recharge the plane for carbon emission free flying.
Designed by Calin Gologan of Germany based PC-Aero, the Elektra One recently won its makers the Lindbergh Prize for Electric Aircraft Vision Award.
Calin Gologan says the future of solar powered flight has already arrived. “We do not have to wait for new technologies, we need only to integrate current components (lightweight structures with high-quality aerodynamics, light and modern electric motors and batteries) in a optimized system.”
The featherweight aircraft weighs just 100 kilograms without batteries – and the lithium ion batteries weigh as much as the plane. Elektra One’s maximum weight is 300 kilograms, allowing for a human and cargo payload of 100 kg. Its maximum engine power is 16kW, capable of achieving cruise speeds of up to 160 kilometres per hour.
The Elektra One is incredibly quiet – under 50dB – thanks to the electric engine in combination with a low propeller revolution speed of under 1500 RPM while cruising.
PC-Aero says their vision is for the energy from the hangar’s rooftop solar array is to not only provide power to the aircraft but also the hangar itself and surplus electricity will be fed back to the power grid. This “banking” of electricity means the aircraft will be able to maintain its carbon emissions free recharging status during night time and unfavourable conditions.
The light plane will be available commercially soon. PC-Aero estimates running costs of the Elektra One to be around AUD 28 cents per kilometre, or AUD $48 per hour. The cost of the plane and solar hangar is expected to be under AUD $137,000.