By Vesna Bernardic
Zagreb, Jun 18 (efe-epa).- Battery-powered airplanes are not a new phenomenon, although until now none of these aircraft had secured official safety certification from the European Union.
That has changed with a model known as the Pipistrel Velis Electro, whose recent European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) certification marks a key step toward a future of environmentally friendly air travel.
The co-owner and public relations director of Ajdovscina, Slovenia-based light aircraft manufacturer Pipistrel hailed that development in her remarks to Efe.
Taja Boscarol, the daughter of the company’s founder, said the breakthrough is the product of nearly two decades of intensive research and follows the development of several award-winning models dating back to 2007, calling the certification a major stride in the history of aviation.
The Velis Electro, which is intended primarily for pilot training, is an ultra-light, two-seat aircraft that is just 6.47 meters (21 feet) long, has a wingspan of 10.71 meters, a cargo capacity of 172 kilograms and an endurance of 50 minutes and can fly at a maximum speed of 200 kilometers (125 miles) per hour.
Its EASA certification, a process that was completed in less than three years, marks a significant step toward a future of environmentally sustainable, emission-free aviation.
“The type certification of the Pipistrel Velis Electro is the first step towards the commercial use of electric aircraft, which is needed to make emission-free aviation feasible. It is considerably quieter than other aeroplanes and produces no combustion gases at all,” the company’s founder and chief executive officer, Ivo Boscarol, was quoted as saying in a press release on June 10, the same day the certification was awarded.
The EASA also hailed the plane’s certification as “an important milestone.”
“This is an exciting breakthrough,” EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky said in a press release issued by the Cologne, Germany-based civil aviation regulator on June 10. “This is the first electric aircraft EASA has certified but it will certainly not be the last, as the aviation industry pursues new technologies to reduce noise and emissions and to improve the sustainability of aviation.”
Pipistrel says the Velis Electro’s “reduced number of moving parts dramatically decreases maintenance costs,” adding that the risk of malfunctions is further minimized thanks to its built-in continuous health-monitoring system.
“This enhanced reliability allows the Velis Electro to have more than double the lifespan of powertrain elements in comparison to the previous generation of electric aeroplanes.”
The plane’s batteries have a total nominal capacity of 24.8 kilowatt hours; one battery pack is located in the nose of the aircraft and another is situated behind the cabin.
The batteries take two hours to charge using photovoltaic panels on the ground and also can be charged via an onboard charging port, through an operation overseen by the main computer.
Featuring an entirely liquid-cooled powertrain, including the batteries, the Velis Electro demonstrated during the certification process that it is capable of withstanding faults, battery thermal runaway events and crash loads.
The plane’s 57.6-kW electric engine (the E-811-268MVLC, which Pipistrel plans to sell as a separate product) also has been certified by the EASA.
The Slovenian company plans to deliver the first 31 Velis Electro planes this year to customers in seven different countries at a cost of 175,000 euros (around $196,000) apiece.
The company’s Taurus Electro, launched in 2007, was the world’s first serially produced, electric two-seat aircraft to become available on the market.
But the Velis Electro is the first electric model to not only be approved by regulators at the national level but also to secure EASA certification, which allows the plane to be sold for commercial as well as private use. EFE