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Electric planes aim to soar high for cleaner aviation sector

Electric planes aim to soar high for cleaner aviation sector

AJDOVSCINA: Ultra-light, fast and cheap: more than a century after the Wright brothers flew the world’s first powered aircraft, a small Slovenian company now hopes to revolutionise the aviation industry with its award-winning electric planes.

Pipistrel’s pioneering Taurus Electro is seen as a breath of fresh air in a sector responsible for 13 per cent of CO2 emissions from all transport sources.

Launched in 2007, around 20 orders are now put in every year for the two-seater plane, which is produced in a factory in the town of Ajdovscina, close to the Italian border.

The 110,000-euro ($120,770) price tag is offset by the plane’s inexpensive maintenance: at 70 cents an hour, the Taurus is 10 times cheaper to run than traditional twin-seater planes, according to Pipistrel.

Simplicity is key: you charge the battery, hop inside the cockpit and hit the ‘on’ button to activate the fuselage’s propeller.

The large-winged aircraft can thrust itself to an altitude of 2,000 metres, after which the engine is retracted and the Taurus glides across the sky as a sailplane.

“You have just two buttons, up and down and full power, but you can always switch off immediately when you need to slow down the aircraft,” explained pilot Nejc Faganelj, soaring high above the Slovenian countryside on a sunny winter’s day.

But behind the deceptively easy usage lies a highly complex design. The most crucial element — and biggest challenge — is the lithium battery, which needs to be light yet sturdy so that it doesn’t catch fire if it overheats.

Published in Dawn, December 7th, 2015

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