While long-haul commercial electric flight may be a way off, short-range battery-powered flight is definitely not.
To prove the point, a team of Swiss electric aviation enthusiasts will fly in a Pipistrel Velis Electro electric aircraft from the European Alps to the North Sea on Sunday, and they’re aiming to set seven new world records.
Those records include highest average speed over 700km, highest altitude ever reached by an electric plane, lowest energy consumption per kilometre per person, and longest distance flown electrically.
Mainly, however, the battery-powered flight, which has been registered with Guinness World Records, hopes to show that carbon-free flight is not only possible, but can outdo jet-fuelled flight on efficiency, speed and, of course, carbon emissions.
Flying in the recently certified Velis Electro from Slovenian electric flight firm Pipistrel, Swiss futurist Morell Westermann and Swiss pilot Marco Buholzer will take off from the Schänis airfield (LSZX) in Switzerland.
They will then fly approximately 850km to Nordeney, one of the East Frisian Islands off the North Sea coast of Germany.
“Flying with kerosene is extremely harmful to the climate,” Buholzer said via a statement to the press.
“Aviation currently accounts for around 5 per cent of global warming, and the trend is increasing. The emissions at high altitude are a particular problem that arises from air traffic. We want to show that there are alternatives, even if we don’t manage the whole route in one go, CO₂-neutral flying is already possible today!”
“If we make it, we’ll set seven world records at once,” said Westermann, via a statement to the press.
“The highest average speed over 700 kilometres as well as the highest altitude ever reached by an electric plane, the lowest energy consumption per kilometre per person, the longest distance flown electrically, etc.”
The seven electric flight records to be attempted by the team are:
– Lowest energy consumption (kWh/100 km) over 700km
– Highest average speed over 700 km (km/h)
– Highest altitude ever reached by an electric aircraft (metre above main sea level)
– Fastest climb performance from 0-1000m / 1000-2000m / 2000-3000m (m/s)
– Fastest average speed over 100km (km/h)
– Lowest number of intermediate stops on 700km distance (number of stops)
– Longest electrically flown distance in 24 / 48 / 56 hours (km)
The Velis Electro, which has a 60kW motor is the first such plane ever to be certified by the European aviation authority EASA.
Its certification is a decisive step from the prototype and experimental stage to commercial use by flight schools and sport pilots.
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.