Pipistrel Ramps Up Electric Aircraft Production

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Although electric airplanes haven’t gained traction in the U.S., Slovenia-based Pipistrel is doing a brisk business selling them to the rest of the world. It has recently increased production from four to about six airplanes per month and the company’s factory in Italy will soon double its manufacturing space, with most of that given over to electric aircraft.

When AVweb visited the new Gorizia, Italy, plant last May, the company had room to expand, but has since filled that up and then some, according to Pipistrel’s Michael Coates, who directs marketing for the U.S., Australia and New Zealand.

Who’s buying? “The person who is buying is normally a flying school operation or an Elon Musk-type high net worth individual taken by wanting to save the planet and wanting an electric aircraft,” Coates told us in an interview last week. “There are a few people out there who want something to fly so they feel they’re not damaging the environment,” he adds.

Concerns about noise remain a big driver, Coates says. “In Europe, it’s the noise. Electric airplanes are a lot quieter. In countries like Switzerland, they have extremely strict noise regulation and that’s driving the change to electric,” he says.

Currently, Pipistrel sells the Alpha Electro, which is essentially an electrified version of its Rotax-powered Alpha trainer. Pipistrel has long recognized that electric airplanes are hobbled by their short endurance and has encouraged buyers to purchase both the gasoline and electric versions. The Alpha Electro is suitable for pattern and practice area work while the gasoline model can be used for cross-country training.

The next version of the Electro will be certified under EASA CS LSA and will include water-cooled batteries. Coates says this may provide two improvements: faster charging time and longer battery life due to better thermal stability.

“The problem with rapid charging is to control the temperatures. With an air-cooled system, you can reduce the temperatures by about 10 degrees Celsius. With water cooling, you can drop it down by 20 degrees,” Coates says. Although Pipistrel hasn’t confirmed this by field experience yet, water cooling could reduce charging times well below the one minute of charge for one minute of flight that’s now the rule of thumb. The cooling system has a Rotax-type oil cooler radiator with a small electric pump to circulate standard engine coolant.

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72 COMMENTS

  1. ” The Alpha Electro is suitable for pattern and practice area work”

    I though about this when a friend purchased a new Tesla. He said he did not care about range because basically he just drove around locally to shops near his home. He did not care that it would actually cost him 4-5 times as much per per mile as a gas car “because he would not drive far”. Economic facepalm.

    • Hi Mark, I don’t think your friend owns a Tesla, maybe a Leaf or Volt. My Tesla has a 300 mile range, and the country wide charging network Tesla provides allows me to drive from Florida to Oregon with no problem at all. I charge at home every night, so I have a full “tank” every day, and as a bonus my car allows free charging on the Tesla Superchargers, so my trip to Oregon costs me nothing in fuel.

      Beyond that , I can blow any car less costing less than 300K off the road 0-60, it’s quiet and smooth, and the best tech I’ve ever seen. Best car I’ve owned in 45 years of car ownership.

      Don’t get me wrong, I love me a big old oil dripping radial engine on aircraft, but believe me, electric cars are so much better than ICE cars, my Ram truck feels so 19th century now. They are far simpler in amount of parts, very little maintenance needed. I have no doubt they are the future.

          • You can get all the perks Lindamon references in the model 3 for 48k. Cheap insurance too. Obviously buying used is the way to go for economy. You can find very good Teslas in the 30k range. You shouldn’t pay more than 1k for the home charger and you can use the plug for other things (power tools, washer/dryer, ect.) If you want a luxury car you’d be hard pressed to find a more economical one.

          • Mark,

            A Tesla does have the range and infrastructure to make long distance cross country road trips. Your grocery (errand) and commuting vehicles are priced well under $50K today, new. And that’s prior to any local or federal tax incentives or rebates.

            The new BMW MINI Cooper EV is priced very aggressively to sell, they are asking $30K for a base model prior to the full $7.5K tax credit, effectively offering a stylist, fun, errand running commuter for just over $20K. Sure, 110 miles isn’t very much, but for errands and commuting that’s more than enough for most of us, statistically. Our 2017 Volt, a vehicle that is currently priced under $25K used, only offered a 53 mile EPA range, but 53 miles was more then enough to cover the 32 mile commute plus errands. Even during the harsh MN winters, where range was cut by 25-35 %, we were satisfied with 50 miles.

            Speaking of the used market, grocery getting, errand running EVs can be found for $7 -25K (all electric as opposed to the gas range extending Volt).

            Cost of operating is far lower over an equivalent gasoline vehicle. I’m not familiar with any current U.S. residential electricity rates that will surpass the local price of gasoline in similar operating costs. We are saving about $700-800 annually in the state not WA prior to any maintenance shavings. Lack of oil changes, air filters and near lifetime brakes are a few perks that come with EV ownership.

            Residential EV infrastructure isn’t expensive. If one prefers to get by with just the 110V outlet (otherwise known as level 1 charging), it’ll offer about 50 miles overnight for an average sized EV (Model 3, Volt, Bolt etc), no extra cost to the consumer. We moved into a house with an installed dryer outlet in the garage (240V), instead of hiring an electrician we simply plugged in our $400 ClipperCreek 15 amp EVSE (Level 2 charging) into the 240V circuit and bought a heat pump clothes dryer requiring only 110V. But based on our setup, an electrician would most likely charge $500 for an added 240V circuit considering the close proximity of the box.

      • Lindamon, if you want more performance than 99% of the cars on the road, simple design, low cost of ownership, and pennies per mile for fuel, then get a motorcycle. Big radials and expensive electric cars share the fact that they are not a choice for people wanting cheap reliable transportation.

      • Lindamon, I’m curious about the actual range of your Tesla. Elon Musk says they will go 300 miles between charges, but I wonder what the real world range is for the average driver. How does it do on freezing days up north, or what drop in range do you suffer when it’s 90+ degrees outside and you need the AC running full blast to cool the car? I agree that Tesla makes a great product with some true cutting edge motor technology, but all car makers fudge on the high side with real world performance.

        • My Dad owns a 2014 Model S P85 with 75k miles that still gets 240 miles (real world) of the 256 mile rated range when new. We live in Florida, so can’t comment on brutal winter weather, but it handles 30’s and 40’s no problem with a real world range around 225 miles.

          Also, can confirm, this thing is a rocket ship.

    • 4-5 times as much per mile as a gas car? They are substantially cheaper unless you intentionally make an unfair comparison of say a used honda civic to a brand new model S (that more closely competes with a new Mercedes).

      I get about 300 miles in my model 3 in the summer, closer to 200 on a very cold winter day. My model 3 performance model cost significantly less than the BMW M3 or Audi RS that I would have otherwise bought (and faster, also). Since then my version of the model 3 has dropped in price.

      The only group of people that electric cars really don’t work for are those that are fearful of change, which is very human and understandable. Unfortunately you have to be increasingly distanced from the facts to justify not buying one as time goes on.

      • It was not a comparison; he bought a new model S and that’s how he planned to drive it. Thanks for agreeing that it was not economical to do that.

        The same goes for training aircraft. It’s not economical for flight schools to buy an expensive new electric plane and plan to only fly around the pattern. You get a $25K C150 so you can MAKE money just futzing around the pattern with students. Businesses only seek change if it helps their profit.

    • Hello John, is not like you say.

      A busy school program would be 3-4 Electric aircraft for all the pattern work because with todays technology this is what they are ideal for. Cheap to operate, almost no noise from the ground and very neighbor friendly.

      The school would also own 1 gas powered aircraft which is 99% the same to fly and operate for all cross country training.

      The ideal ratio is 4:1 for a busy school with 5 aircraft operating (4 electric and one gas)

      Please remember like the first flight in aviation just over 100 years ago, its new technology which has some great advantages but also some limitations. The limitations at this time is flight duration but on the other hand, its the cheapest way to fly and also respect the environment at the same time.

      • That adds a lot to training time and cost!
        A student will need to be checked out in a 2nd plane AND a second propulsion system for the XC. Sending a student on an XC when mag switches, boost pumps, vacuum pumps. emergency engine procedures, etc. are not second nature by that point sounds a bit sketchy.

        As far as the environment, it’s tried to kill me in the air on several occasions.

        • I think you’re looking at it backwards. Everyone is trained in gas engines, so the only additional training is for the electric system. Seems like that would take all of 15 minutes. As a CFI, I could see using the electric for 80% of PPL training.

          Moreover, reducing noise and pollution complaints will go a long way towards keeping GA airports open. Maybe if you live in the sticks no one cares, but in urban areas, it’s a constant threat.

          • Magneto selection? Leaning with density altitude? Aux fuel pump? Carb ice? Clearing lead-fouled plugs? Hot starts? Cold starts? Who is being trained on that these days?

            Noise pollution is not coming from the little gas trainers, it’s coming from high performance aircraft and from jets. An O-200 or O-235 is not very loud at all.

          • So why not buy that one ICE Alpha instead of TWO planes?

            No sense in paying for the purchase cost of 2 planes, with 2 insurance policies, and 2 recurring 100 hour inspections. You won’t SAVE money by requiring 2 planes to complete primary training.

          • Mark F:

            You are, as usual, missing the point. This airplane is aimed at flying schools. How many flying schools do you know that have only one airplane? Even the smallest school I’ve visited had two airplanes. If you’re buying more than one anyway, why not buy them in a mixture that allows your school to operate most efficiently? Obviously the business case needs to work out for a particular school, but the production numbers indicate that it is for a bunch of schools.

        • You have lots of valid points, but the one you are missing is Total Cost of Operation. Fuel + maintenance on a Cessna or similar aircraft is still the majority of cost for instruction. Electric aircraft will cost less than 1/2 to operate compare to their ICE counterparts. Again you are quite correct on learning to manage fuel systems and long X/C operations and such, but for initial learning and pattern work, electric will be both cheaper and safer! Surely you can appreciate these fundamental improvements?

    • About that prospective poll…..

      Every autumn, polling organizations report that Americans PLAN to spend about 10% LESS on Christmas gift shopping, than they spent in the previous year.

      But by the end of December, Americans have spent 5% MORE than they did a year ago.

      What is it, that’s paved with (public pronouncements of) good intentions?

      Still, the poll results should be amusing, if not informative.

  2. There’s no better poll than delivery numbers.

    If they’re delivering 6 aircraft per month (72/year), they’re delivering more than twice as many electric aircraft than American Champion, CubCrafters, Extra, and Mooney COMBINED delivered of anything in 2018 (4, 8, 14, and 4 respectively, 30 total, source: GAMA General Aviation Shipment Report).

    If they deliver 72 electric aircraft in the next year, they will have out sold every piston single with the exception of the Piper Warrior III and SR22T (but even these won’t be ahead by much). Even if they only deliver 48 (4 per month they’re producing now) they’re still in the top 5 relative to piston singles.

    As much as you armchair experts don’t want this thing to be successful, people are buying them, and that’s really all that counts. Put your fingers in your ears and scream as much as you want. The people buying these aircraft don’t care what you think.

    • I will switch to electric when it can surpass the capabilities of my 1977 Cessna 177RG, but I doubt that will happen in my lifetime.

      The only reason that countries outside the USA are switching is because of government control of every aspect of peoples lives. In the USA we still have a portion of real freedom left to live the way we want to, and our markets are still somewhat free.

      • Considering our 177RGs can go up to 900 miles nonstop, and then refuel in about 15 minutes, I’m pretty sure we won’t be seeing an electric replacement any time soon. Electric cars can now go up to 300 miles between charges because the battery weighs about 1/3 of the total vehicle weight. Add that much weight to a light plane and it isn’t likely to get off the ground.

        • These are pretty irrelevant arguments. Pipistrel isn’t marketing their aircraft as a 177RG replacement, they’re marketing it as a trainer. Your comments are like saying “I would never replace my Ford F150 with a Honda Civic because it won’t tow my 7000 lb house trailer”. Okay, good for you, nobody is suggesting you do.

          I don’t understand how people can’t figure out that there are different airplanes for different missions. Why don’t we train new pilots in a 787? Why don’t we fly Piper Malibus on floats? Why don’t we fly trans-atlantic passenger routes in SR22s? Why don’t we do hamburger runs in F-16s? You could do any of those things, but you wouldn’t because those aircraft are not particularly good or efficient in those roles (even though they’re super good at doing other things) and there are other airplanes out there that do those roles better.

          And I’m going to just ignore the “America, F*** Yeah” part.

          • Partly true, but most trainers today are also used beyond the local area on cross country flights. The solution suggested here was to buy a gasoline-powered version – which could do it all without the electric variant at all!

          • Cameron G I can’t reply directly to your comment.

            You’re missing the point entirely. Yes, the gas-powered version could do all those things without the electric version, but the electric version is better in the short-range training role than the gas version (i.e. cheaper to operate, simpler, quieter). If you’re going to have a fleet of airplanes, why not try to optimize the fleet to the roles you’re using them in?

            Just like you could do cross-country in a Beaver, but a Malibu is a better cross-country airplane. If your company needs two airplanes and does equal parts cross-country and bush flying, you don’t buy two Beavers or two Malibus. You buy a Malibu and a Beaver.

            I really don’t get why this is so hard to understand.

          • 1. Quieter. Can be done with gasoline power – no-one is really trying, yet. Apparently not that important, but certainly not something that is exclusive to electric.
            2. Cheaper. Definitely not. The Electro is 50% more expensive to buy – that’ll take a time to recover. And how long until you need to replace the batteries? Maybe it will work out cheaper in the long run, but it’s no slam-dunk.
            3. Simpler. Electric motors are simpler than the gasoline, true. But gasoline isn’t that bad, and being far more common, easier to find personnel who can maintain them. And if you’re using both, you maintaining TWO types, not one, which is more complex.

            Your Malibu / Beaver comparison is not relevant – we are not discussing two different airframes. Just two different powerplants. One has the ability to do everything a trainer needs to do. The other is constrained and cannot. I just don’t see it being a great business case unless looking ‘green’ is more important than anything else.

      • Seriously you’re comparing electric powered aircraft to a pet rock? I think you might be living under one – in case you haven’t noticed Airbus is investing millions of dollars in electric propulsion, NASA is also doing the same and Boeing was too until they became distracted with airplanes that like to dive.
        Celebrate innovation, applaud risk-takes, reward progress. It’s not perfect in the beginning but someone is out there doing something important instead of just talking.

    • Good to see a positive comment from someone on AvWeb regarding electric aircraft. It’s a good thing that all these armchair quarterbacks commenting on these posts don’t call the shots when it comes to R&D.

      Battery technology is advancing and within the next couple of years there will be a couple of quantum leaps in energy density as well as charging options as breakthroughs are being made with Li-CO2 and Li-S batteries. Li-CO2 promises up to 7x the energy of Li-Ion batteries, so just image having one of these Pipistrels today and in 5 years seeing your range increase more than five-fold!

      At least Alex R. is one of the few commenters here who shows some vision.

      Electric cars are coming of age after a couple of decades of R&D. And as prices come down in the next few years they will start taking more and more market share away from gas guzzlers. Because who wouldn’t want a car that not only runs on clean electricity (yes, I know, we still burn FFs to create electricity, but the economy of scale means far less emissions), but is quieter, outperforms ICE cars, and has much lower maintenance costs thanks fewer moving parts. I own a Prius now and have decided that it’s the last fuel burning car I will ever own. Next car will be pure electric and the surplus power that the solar panels on my roof generate will be going into that car instead of going back to the power company for which they only pay me $0.035 per kWHr.

      So now that electric cars are on the cusp of becoming mainstream, aviation is next and this article is a sign that it WILL HAPPEN.

      This is disruptive technology and we are at the bottom of the S curve just coming around the bend. This is a couple of years away from really taking off and all the negative-nancies hear will have to re-think their positions, because when it comes to technological advances you are either disrupting or being disrupted. Resist change all you want, but it’s still going to happen. And in this case, this is a good thing.

      • This ‘negative nancy’ will be glad to see all these breakthroughs IF and when they occur.

        Electric cars are quite a different proposition to electric aircraft too. Electric cars are almost on-par with gasoline today, if done right. We are a long way off for aviation, though. I mean, until your breakthroughs take place (and then a few more – 7x increase isn’t enough).

        • Take a look at this: https://insideevs.com/news/394309/oxis-cells-almost-500-wh-kg/.

          The best Li-Ion batteries today have an energy density of about 250 Whr/kg. This company is already close to double that and set a new target of 600 WHr/kg. I can see Li-S batteries being at 1300 Whr/kg within 10 years. That’s a better than 5x improvement. That would mean the current long range Teslas would have a range of over 1500 miles! and this Pipestrel would have an endurance of over 5 hours! So yes, 7X is more than enough.

          Just compare it to a Cessna 152 which is also commonely used for training. The Pipestrel Alpha Electra has comparable cruise performance and a better payload than a fully fueled C152. The only area the 152 beats the Pipestrel right now is in endurance. In ten years that may no longer be true. And using an electric rate of 17 cents per kWHr (which is my rate here in NY but rates are much lower across the country) the energy cost to operate the Pipestrel is about $3.85 per hour compared to a C152 which is about $30 per hour.

          I can see flight schools gobbling up these planes once higher density batteries are available, and most schools wouldn’t even need to wait for 5X or 7X to justify the investment. 3X would more than do it.

  3. Electric car and airplane owners sing the song about how inexpensive they are to operate because of the “free” electricity that propels them. What they conveniently ignore is that, at least to this point, the various governments have not devised an effective way to tax their “fuel”. In the U.S., fuel taxes amount to about a third of the cost of a gallon of gasoline. That tax is intended to pay for construction and maintenance of the highway system, or to support the Airways Trust Fund. When equivalent taxes are levied on those electric vehicles, their operating expenses will go up considerably. And, even if you charge at home, most cars require an expensive charging system that should be added into the cost per mile of the car in addition to the price per KWH you pay for the recharge.

    As far as I’m concerned, if you want an electric vehicle – car or plane – knock yourself out. But I would appreciate it if you would pay your fair share of supporting the highways or the ATF and not expect the rest of us to subsidize your adventure.

    • Many states already charge road infrastructure fees for EVs, and in many cases they are substantially unfair considering they are annual flat fees with no bearing on actual harm done to the roads (miles driven). This is a hot topic that will need to be addressed. A solution would be to charge EVERY vehicle a flat fee based on weight, effectively eliminating the gas tax, or to offer a flat fee if the owner/operator opts out to be “tracked” for actual miles driven. I believe OR is doing something similar.

      EVs don’t need any charging infrastructure installed if the owner/operator can get by with Level 1 charging on 110V using a typical household outlet. Level 1 offers about 50 miles overnight for midsized EV (Model 3, Volt, Bolt etc). Level 2 (240V) total costs could range from $1,000 – $2,000 which includes the Level 2 EVSE and the installation of a dedicated circuit. If there is a welding or dryer outlet already installed then the costs of a Level 2 EVSE will range from $400-$600. In many cases $400-600 is paid back in a year with operating cost savings. A small price to pay for refueling at home.

      • Home charging?
        110V x 15 Amps x 12 hours = 20KW

        Excuse me, but what’s the point of having energy star rated appliances and LED lighting and high SEER rated home A/C systems if you then plug in a car? That negates all the savings AND THEN SOME. Just sayin’

  4. We ventured into the EV market a year ago with a Kia Soul (flying part coming). Lot’s of Gov’t incentives (BC Canada) so it was no different to us buying a new gas one. Great for our in-town errands with a 220Km range in summer and 120 in winter with all electrics and climate control. Even works for getting to the Airport for flying our C172. I appreciate the free-pass I get/got right now, but I am under NO illusion that this will last as Gov’ts find ways to get their pound-of-flesh.

    Frankly, purchased it because of the “free nature” of the deal at the time, not due to Enviro concerns as I still wonder that the actual harm producing, driving (not all electric power is green) and disposing of these cars outweighs a similar ICE’s carbon footprint. The ‘aren’t we great’ argument is overblown/hypocritical when we consider our consumption of electronics/plastics that have such little actual life-use.

    However, a flight school toggling EV trainers with our venerable gas-gulping ones, now that is interesting and quite agreeable to me. So many NIMBY regulations confining and raising the cost of entry into GA > Career at flight schools now this could actually help. I would gladly accept the challenge to augment my quiver of currency with an EV. And in this scenario with aviation, I think these would help our climate concerns mandate.

    Cheers

    • 120 km range in winter? That wouldn’t reliably get me to work and back home. And my commute isn’t particularly long.

      I agree that an electric airplane could work – at light weights (500 # of Americans aboard?), in the traffic pattern, in the practice area – provided that the FAA modifies the 30/45 minute additional-endurance rules.

      • The average commute in the USA is 16 miles each way. 32 miles a day. 52 km a day. If 120 km of range won’t get you to and from work, your commute *is* particularly long, and thus you’re not the target customer for this vehicle. There are plenty of electric vehicles on the market that will reliably give you more than twice that range even in winter.

        • Over the last decade, I spent a lot of money on my house to reduce electric consumption. Government also mandated energy star appliances and even forced the phasing out of standard light bulbs. Electric companies suggest people set their house A/C thermostats to 80+ in the summer to reduce loads.

          It seems damn silly to now hear people saying that I need to plug a CAR at
          home that sucks a lot of power for 12 hours at a stretch.

  5. It’s amazing how this subject generates so much emotion! It’s like political or sports “tribes”. It’s blindingly obvious to me that electric transportation, both on the ground and in the air, is the future. It’s just a question of how soon (and it will be soon). As someone upstream said, the real poll numbers are sales figures and they all point in the same direction. Check Bye Aerospace’s eFlyer pre-orders. I’m sure everyone here loves a 500 knot low pass on full afterburner with a pull to the vertical to 10,000′, but I wouldn’t like to pay for it (okay, I know, tax dollars). Try 0-100mph in a P100D Tesla S in ludicrous mode and you can get that thrill every day, running on solar!

    • That $100k Tesla may thrill, but it can’t handle a 2-1/2 hour ride from Springfield to Boston, in sub-zero temperatures, without entertaining the possibility of freezing to death when the battery pack goes flat. It’s about as practical as a bicycle in a New England winter. Real world, indeed. I guess I just need three cars. That’s green.

      • YARS,

        A 300-370 mile Tesla can’t handle a 2.5 hr drive? Even with a fairly common 25-35% range drop that we witnessed in our EV during MN winters, a 35% drop translates to 200-240 miles of realistic driving.

        Shorter, errand trips usually consume more energy as the vehicle spends more energy consistently warming the cabin between stops. Longer legs effectively minimize cold weather range loss as the battery and cabin require less energy to maintain a consistent temperature over warming a cold soaked vehicle. I experienced a 25% drop in our gasoline fuel efficiency during similar conditions with shorter trips as the engine is consistently required to warm to operating temps between cycles (more fuel).

      • I know that there’s more than one Springfield around, but if we use the one in MA, then we’re looking at a 90 mile run.

        Is this really a problem with a Tesla? I mean, I know it gets cold, but aren’t they popular in Greenland?

  6. Geez. These are ELECTRIC AIRPLANES! That’s terrific! I have a wonderful old Piper Cherokee which I love, but I will be the first on line when we can get a plane with range that’s QUIET!
    Pipestrel isn’t claiming to be there today, but these are great steps and they should be applauded mightily for their awesome efforts and real progress.
    All you haters need a friggin hug, I pity you for thinking (and posting) so negatively. It’s obvious to all that it’s not the very existence of an electric plane (the horror!) that’s troubling you (or a Tesla, what’s that line of discussion all about?) If you so badly need to alert the world that you have issues, seek counseling, or the aforementioned hug, but lay off the ‘lectrics, they’re bitchin.

    • Wow! Another voice of reason on AvWeb. I agree with you. I would love to be able to one day replace the engine in my Piper PA28-180 with an electric motor. Just imagine the benefits:

      1) No more oil changes.
      2) No more spark plug maintenance.
      3) No more magneto rebuilds.
      4) No more expensive exhaust maintenance.
      5) No more periodic expensive oil hose replacement.
      6) No more worries about cracked cabin heat shrouds (those this are ridiculously expensive).
      7) No more expensive smelly dirty avgas.
      8) Quiet operation.
      9) Lower cabin vibration.
      10) Full power at any altitude.
      11) No wasting energy when waiting 25 minutes to take off from busy airports.

      The list can go on and on, but you see my point. All of these benefits justify all the investment by the many players in the electric aviation industry.

      Looking forward I have been following a lot of developments into battery technology. R&D in Li-S and Li-CO2 batteries are very promising with potential energy densities of at least 7X that of current Li-Ion batteries. What that means is that the Pipestrel that has a one hour range today can potentially have a 7 hour range when they retrofit newer batteries in the future. If you aren’t even the least bit excited about this and what this could mean for the future of aviation then I don’t know what to say, other than I’m glad that type of thinking didn’t prevail when Ford introduced the horseless carriage.

      I dream about a day when I taxi my electric airplane back to my tiedown spot, pull the removable battery modules out of the wings, and take them home to be charged using the solar panels on my roof. I would actually be flying with zero incremental carbon footprint! and it would cost me nothing!

      • Daniel, all the name calling aside, I would love to see your rosy future come to pass. But most of the “doubters” who reside here have seen too many “wave of the future” ideas die a horrible death when it comes to making them mainstream in aviation. Do flying cars, cheap LSAs, etc., ring a bell? Don’t confuse an increase in energy density in a battery with an equivalent range extension. Also, don’t assume that the newer batteries – designed to propel ground vehicles – would be the same for use in an aircraft. The Pipistrel battery packs bear little resemblance to those in a Tesla. The other problem is that those pesky regulatory agencies will drive the cost of certification for such innovations higher than the service ceiling of the aircraft. Their attitude about green vehicles is probably about the same as some of the fossils here in this blog. Getting a new electric car built and certified as roadworthy is a slam dunk compared with getting much of anything approved by the FAA. I wish it weren’t true, but sadly it is.

        Personally, I think that electric propulsion would be great, for all the reasons presented above. I love my Cardinal, and would be overjoyed if it could be retrofitted with an electric motor, but realistically, not in my lifetime. You must be a young man if you think your dream may come true in your flying future. Practical implementation of long-range, rapid recharge, pure electric airplanes are probably a decade away at best. I’m talking about four-place replacements for 172s or Cardinals, not two-place pattern trainers. I hope to be here to see that, but I doubt that I will be still able to fly it, unless it is one of Yars’ “autonomous” commuter drones. 😉

        • You are right. I am a young man. I’m only 50 so I still have more than half of my life ahead of me. In 10 years I will only be 60 and budgeting for retirement. I expect by then that electric aviation will have advanced to the point where I could likely trade in my avgas powered plane for cheap electric which would fit my retirement budget quite nicely. Whether it be via STC or a kit plane or a new certified aircraft, I would love an electric plane that I could afford to fly at least until the age of 105 (I have been planning my retirement investments to last until I’m 110 – everyone should plan as if they were going to live forever). And 10 years is not a very long time to wait.

  7. Muucho Kudo’s to Pipistrel. They recognized a legitimate aviation niche market, designed an airplane and power-plant combo to fill it, certified and built it, and are selling, building, and delivering those airplanes at a profit. No pie in the sky hype bolstered by virtual reality video by companies who have yet to build or fly anything beyond a computer animated version. Customer response has been excellent. How many GA aviation companies, global or domestic, have been expanding production facilities to meet an increasing demand?

    It takes vision, genius, and courage to put into production anything that admittedly has some technological limitations ( batteries at this point), yet has demonstrated enough ROI at this level of development to warrant continued production with the inevitable refinement that comes from real world experience. To see this happen in aviation is one of the best stories of recent years. So many in GA seem to be sore winners. Why?

    Pipistrel is meeting much higher regulatory demands that are part of European aviation. Flight schools in the US stand to be huge beneficiaries of this process of engineering, development, real world experience. Since the FAA is still busy putting out the MCAS certification brush fires and the PR nightmare that has resulted, we need to be thankful Pipistrel is cutting it’s electrical developmental teeth in Europe rather than the US.

    When the FAA gets it’s collective, bureaucratically bloated heads out of their equally collective, bloated, tax-payer funded posteriors, and wakes up to the refinement of electrical aircraft power that Pipistrel has already demonstrated and will continue to refine and certify in Europe, the FAA will be able to generate some realistic, useful, and viable regulation for US flight schools and the US GA electric powered flight developmental landscape. We in aviation, all win from Pipestrel’s accomplishments.

  8. Advancements in technology allow for more efficient materials and components. Thermoplastics, electronics, engines, electric motors, power sources – gadgets that convert power into motion more efficiently. At a point in time, creative minds put advanced components together. The Pipistrel’s Alpha Electro is the product of advancements in technology in a challenging and competitive marketing environment. Interesting concept. But, a $150K aircraft, VFR only, with sixty minute airtime and a 70nm range limit is a questionable investment. Will the overwhelming majority of U.S. flight schools support the Pipistrel Alpha Electro? Not yet. Not until the development of a more efficient and safer battery pack with double the existing operational life is available.

    • I agree, there are very rapid advancements in electric motors and batteries and materials..
      However, it also brings with it a huge downside.
      Every change in material, weight, performance and controls on a certified aircraft involves EASA and FAA approval.

      Rapid improvement is good; it also means that your $150,000 iPlane becomes rapidly obsolete.

        • 1895?
          Electric vehicles were invented ~30 years prior to that in 1867!
          After 153 years of electric development, where are the electric airliners, electric rockets, electric military fighters, electric business jets? It’s ALWAYS been “once we get better batteries….”. Yawn.

          Paul, not sure where that came from, but I’ve been running hybrids, full electric, e-bikes, and even home solar for 10 years now. I’ve seen what’s possible and I have a pretty good BS meter when it comes to electric claims. You and I will be dead and there still will not be batteries suited to replace the power now being used by heavier than air flying machines.

    • The battery modules are removable which also means that in the future they can be retrofit. 10 years from now when Li-S or Li-CO2 batteries with more than 5x the energy density become available I would expect that Pipestrel would provide upgrade options that would turn that one hour airplane into a five hour airplane.

      This is a very new and disruptive technology. Everyone needs to change their thinking.

        • I’m sure between now and then there will be a way to do it, especially if it’s coming from the manufacturer. It’s been done before. For example, my PA28-180 got an expanded CG envelope in 1972 with just a SB and a page added to the flight manual. (Piper did some engineering calculations and got approval from the FAA.)

          As I said, this is disruptive technology. Everyone needs to change their thinking.

          • Ironically the apparent “simplicity” of electric power means you create extremely complicated electrical systems. The more advanced the engineering change is, the less likely it will get a free pass from the FAA for the mod.

  9. “But, a $150K aircraft, VFR only, with sixty minute airtime and a 70nm range limit is a questionable investment. Will the overwhelming majority of U.S. flight schools support the Pipistrel Alpha Electro?”

    Pipistrel does not need the “overwhelming majority of US flight schools support”. They are selling electric trainers elsewhere that are already receiving it well, including the business model mix of gas and electric. The European flight schools are paying significantly more for avgas/mogas than we are and have to deal with EU noise limitations to even fly. EASA certs include jumping through the noise hoops which the Electric Alpha and Rotax powered version meet. Having an airplane that already meets those requirements in Europe via EASA certification makes FAA certification much easier especially in the light of the current FAA, knee jerk to MCAS re-certification mess. Right now, the FAA is at a snail pace for final approval on aviation improvements validated well in advance of MCAS. Sure Pipistrel wants market share in the US. But that is some distance off until the FAA approval process improves and speeds up. While all that is going on, Pipistrel will have made considerable progress in their products.

    The US flight schools stand to gain a lot from these inevitable improvements when the FAA starts to promulgate the rules for electric flight including flight training. We are debating business models and the pros and cons of electric flight when there is no official class or sanction at this point the FAA can agree on for the basis of certification. It took decades to finally get FAA approval to use an Experimental airplane to train/transition pilots in the same airplane type when completed and get expenses covered.

    Think about Van Nuys, Santa Monica, Palwaukee (Chicago Executive) north of O’Hare. Schaumburg Airport just 9nm west of O’Hare’s longest E/W runway has a 1200ft pattern ceiling with 3000ft ceiling limitations in the practice area which is saturated with housing just like Van Nuys. All of these airports have flight schools, lots of them. The electric Pipistrel model would be a welcome blessing today if that was FAA possible.

    “Rapid improvement is good; it also means that your $150,000 iPlane becomes rapidly obsolete.” Where in aviation is there a planned obsolescence built in like a common consumer product? You can still restore a Windekker Eagle using approved parts including the plastics and resins which are still available by DuPont. Want to restore, maintain,and fly a Curtiss Jenny? Have at it. Pipistrel is well aware of the FAA and EASA certification process. Pipistrel does not want to bring out new technology that cannot be easily retrofitted in current models.

    Because the certification process is so difficult and expensive, because of certification of mods via STC on existing airplanes is such a pain in the ______, I cannot think of a single airplane manufacturer past or present who intentionally made it impossible to add improved technology. Want ADS-B In and OUT with the latest glass panel in your restored Jenny? Want to remove the OX-5 and install a Siemens electric motor? Go for it. All it takes is gobs of money and patience. If there is anything a current aircraft manufacturer does NOT want to do, is certify an airplane that cannot be retrofitted with improvements they have engineered in their new models.

      • Advancements in Battery Thechnology
        There is hope.
        Future batteries, coming soon: Charge in seconds, last months and power over the air.

        pocket-lint.com/gadgets/news/130380-future-batteries-coming-soon-charge-in-seconds-last-months-and-power-over-the-air

    • “The European flight schools are paying significantly more for avgas/mogas than we are and have to deal with”

      People in the EU sometimes come to the USA to train because the EU is intentionally taxing GA out of the air.
      All that is affordable (for working people in the EU) are tiny planes owned by large collective clubs.
      Electric aviation in the EU only makes sense because of their tiny planes and because of the tax loophole.