West Australian-based Electro.Aero has developed a high voltage electric plane charger designed specifically for the aviation industry and has recently shipped its very first unit off to US-based Ampaire which is developing hybrid electric planes.
The Rapid 30 electric plane charger from Electro.Aero is a completely new product targeting an industry that is on the cusp of a dramatic transition in much the way has happened with cars.
Able to charge at a rate of 30kW power over a wide range of voltage from 300 volts to 1 kilovolt, the Rapid 30 will be used to charge the electric propulsion portion of aircraft such as Ampaire’s hybrid electric Cessna that took its first flight in California in June.
Electro-Aero co-founder and CTO Joshua Portlock says that the charger is a first for the aviation industry.
“No one has been making chargers designed for aviation. There are plenty of electric car chargers but they are permanent installs, and are very heavy and tall – it can be difficult getting a wing over it,” he tells The Driven. “We’ve made it intentionally low enough to fit under most wings.”
Fitted with wheels for portability, the charger is designed to run off a standard 50 amp three-phase wall socket, to be used with an extension lead for added usability.
“The main focus is getting the most power they can practically pull off a wall connector and it is portable so they can take it to different hangers for greater flexibility,” says Portlock.
With what it hopes to prove to be a clear degree of foresight, Electro.Aero decided to use the Chinese GB/T plug standard – which in fact is the most common electric charger plug standard in the world.
“We commited to the GB/T standard developed by GB Standards in China, because China is leading the way in a new DC rapid charging standard that is the best of all worlds, learning from CCS1 , CCS2 and CHAdeMO,” says Portlock.
“It culminates to be more cost effective and a more energy dense plug than the others, which are quite chunky.”
(Side note: according to Portlock, there are a good ten times more GB/T plugs in the world than all other DC plug standards combined, and even Tesla vehicles must be fitted with a GB/T to be sold in China.)
All this means the relatively diminutive charger packs a lot of punch.
According to Ampaire co-Founder and CTO Cory Combs, “the Electro.Aero Charger RAPID will prove to be an invaluable asset for Ampaire‘s flight demonstration efforts around the globe.”
And it could be for the aviation industry at large – with electric and hybrid electric aircraft makers like Ampaire, Eviation and Embraer edging closer to commercial electric flight, the sky is the limit.
“We are getting even more interest in the RAPID 30 Charger now it has been made public,” says Portlock.
“The fact of the matter is we assumed there was a gap in the market – now we know there is a gap in the market.”
A previous version of this article had incorrectly quoted Mr Portlock and minor corrections for the sake of clarity have been made.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018, and has a keen interest in the role that zero-emissions transport has to play in sustainability. She has participated in podcasts such as Download This Show with Marc Fennell and Shirtloads of Science with Karl Kruszelnicki and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum. Bridie also owns a Tesla Model 3 and has it available for hire on evee.com.au.