Air Race E, the Airbus-backed electric racing series, this week unveiled the world’s first electric race plane, the ‘White Lightning’ “highly-modified” Cassutt aircraft racer built by Team Condor.
Announced and unveiled at the Dubai air show by Air Race E race promoter Jeff Zaltman, the White Lightning is the first ever example of an electric race plane and will compete in the inaugural Air Race E event in 2020.
The plane is built by Yorkshire-based Team Condor in its workshop in the North of England, and is a highly modified Cassutt aircraft which itself boasts a rich history in formula air racing dating back to 1979.
“This is a pivotal moment not only for Air Race E, but for the aviation industry as a whole,” said Air Race E CEO and Founder Jeff Zaltman.
“Our aim by establishing an electric racing series is to develop a unifying platform for the development of cleaner, faster and more technologically advanced electric aircraft. The racing series will provide a testbed for innovation and accelerate the journey towards electric commercial travel.
“We’ve now shown it is possible and are on track to again create history when planes like the one on display at the Dubai Airshow take to the skies for the race next year.”
Team Condor is led by Martyn Wiseman, and along with his crew, Wiseman has spent the past few months converting White Lightning into a fully-electric racing aircraft, utilising a Contra Electric twin motor and contra-rotating propeller powertrain.
The plane in question was once a regular on the formula one racing circuit in Europe during the 1980s and 90s, with owner and pilot Andrew Chadwick earning a number of podium finishes. Chadwick has since donated the aircraft to Team Condor to compete in the upcoming Air Race E series.
The new electric-powered racer will be able to reach speeds of around 300 mph (482 kph) and boast max continuous power of 150 kW.
The plane will carry 100kg of lithium batteries installed under the fuselage of the plane, providing power for five minutes of high intensity racing and around 10 minutes of reserve flying at reduced power.
White Lightning is one of two electric race planes nearest to completion, the other being a model being built at the University of Nottingham’s Aerospace Technology Centre in the UK as part of its £13M Propulsion Futures Beacons of Excellence research programme, led by Richard Glassock, a University of Nottingham engineering fellow.
Glassock has also been instruments in the development of White Lightning and is hoping to have his own model in the air by early next year.
The Air Race E series will consist of eight teams contesting a series of head-to-head international air races which showcase skill, expertise, and ingenuity of the best pilots and engineers from around the world.
Unlike other air racing events which operate on a time trial basis, Air Race E events will see eight planes fly simultaneously around a tight 5-kilometre circuit at around 10 metres above ground.