EAS VIII: Across the Atlantic – Twice

Jean-Luc Soullier, holder of Fédération Aéronautique Internationale records for speed and altitude in an aircraft almost lighter than its pilot, has a greater series of ambitions to expand the range and speed of electric aircraft.

Having stretched the limits of his Colomban MC-30e with two different motors, he’s looking at a longer-spanned, cleaner aircraft – the Windward Performance Duckhawk – as a means of getting higher speed and much longer range for a truly formidable (tres formidable) crossing of the Atlantic Ocean, not once, but twice.

Duckhawk in Windward Performance hangar in Bend, Oregon.  Truncated nose awaits motor and spinner

Duckhawk in Windward Performance hangar in Bend, Oregon. Truncated nose awaits motor and spinner

The airplane, with a Rotex motor on the nose and a specially-designed Arplast three-bladed propeller, will weigh a mere 105 kilograms (231 pounds) empty – without batteries. This is considerably less than the lightest Duckhawk in standard form, and shows that designer Greg Cole and Jean-Luc are making room for the added weight of long-range energy storage.  Since the original airplane manages +7.5/-5 g’s, the lighter version will be restricted to a never-exceed velocity of 180 kilometers per hour (111.6 mph), lower than the heavier dynamic-soaring-capable sailplane can attain. The competition Duckhawk, by comparison, can fly in smooth air with a Vne of 200 knots (230 mph) and has a maneuvering limit of 160 knots (184 mph).

15-meter (49.2 foot) wing is extraordinarily slender, helping the airplane achieve a 50:1 lift-drag ratio

15-meter (49.2 foot) wing is extraordinarily slender, helping the airplane achieve a 50:1 lift-drag ratio

At the eighth annual Electric Aircraft Symposium in April, he explained how he and his business partner Roman Marcinowski had developed the Etlantic program to field a high-performance sailplane with a 15 kilowatt (20.1 horsepower) powerplant, batteries in the wings and 10 square meters (107 square feet) of solar panels collecting energy to supplement the range of the batteries.  Because the Duckhawk has only 80 square feet of wing surface, solar cells will probably also be distributed on tail and upper fuselage areas, although this is not shown on the conceptual sketch.

The first of the two Atlantic crossings, starting from the Paris Air Show in July, 2015 will be powered by secondary, or rechargeable batteries.  Stops in Iceland, Greenland and Newfoundland will accommodate charging before Jean-Luc presses on to that year’s AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.  The high-energy cells will provide up to 2,200 kilometers (1,364 miles) range with the help of the solar cells.  Jean-Luc talked about flying a low-high-low mission to gain further assistance from prevailing and jet stream winds.

Conceptual drawing of Duckhawk with range-extending solar cells

Conceptual drawing of Etlantic Duckhawk with range-extending solar cells

At 200 kilometers per hour (124 mph) true air speed, Jean-Luc calculates the airplane will require the full 16 kilowatts the motor can provide, but dropping back to 120 kph (75 mph) requires only 5 kW.  Monitoring energy usage and comparing that to true air speed will enable appropriate modulation of current draw.  Chasing the most helpful winds will test navigation and piloting skills.

With a survival suit (in case of a letdown into the cold northern waters) and a ballistic parachute (in case of aircraft issues), Jean-Luc will rely on GPS tracking and the support of a great many people to assure a quick retrieval in case of problems.

Retracing Lindbergh’s flight, Etlantic’s New York City to Paris flight, planned for 2016, would be a non-stop crossing of 6,600 kilometers (4,092 miles), a true test of how far the technology can take us in the next few years.  The flight will use primary, non-rechargeable cells with extremely high energy density.  An epic flight on such low power seems the truest of David and Goliath confrontations.

All flights will have navigation and flight data recording from MGL and drag reduction via the use of Dr. Sinha’s deturbulator tape.  Jean-Luc considers that they played a part in helping the team achieve FAI records in the Colomban MC-30e Luciole (Firefly).

With the Duckhawk making its way from Windward Performance’s Bend, Oregon home to its new hangar in Puy-de-Dôme, France, we will see the thoughtful solutions Jean-Luc and Roman find for dealing with the daunting challenges they face.

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Batteries, Fuel Cells – or Something Else?

We’re coming to a parting of the ways in energy storage development for electric cars.  Or we may be coming to a joining of technologies in new and previously unimagined ways.  One side, led by Elon Musk and his Tesla Empire, promotes battery power and development.  Yet, in Tesla’s home state of California, government and private investments in hydrogen vehicles is growing.   Several Asian and European automakers are bringing out fuel cell powered vehicles in the face of low numbers of existing fueling stations. 

For all the promotion from either side, future “green” cars may become too expensive for private ownership, and various approaches to providing personal mobility may replace the traditional owner-driver model.  Regardless of the outcomes or market shares, the technology will be applicable to personal aviation, although perhaps at a significant price.

Battery-Powered Vehicles Lead – For Now

According to EV World, “In the last year, global registrations of electric vehicles from the first three years of the market reached 500,000 units. The U.S. plays a dominant role, with 200,000 vehicles registered, more than one-third of those in California.”

Nagoya University EV shows that future transport may not resemble familiar vehicles

Nagoya University EV shows that future transport may not resemble familiar vehicles

The article lists the different types of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) available and speculates that the wide range of technologies helps explain their rapid acceptance.

  • Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs – i.e. Ford Fusion); similar to HEVs, but with bigger batteries and the ability to store electricity from plugging into an outlet.
  • Extended Range Electric Vehicles (EREVs – i.e. Chevy Volt); similar to PHEVs, with increased electric range.
  • BEVx: (BMW i3 with range extender); similar to BEVs, but with a small internal combustion (ICE) engine to extend driving range
  • Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs – i.e. Nissan LEAF); utilize rechargeable battery packs
  • “Large Battery BEV” (Tesla Model S); BEVs with range similar to gasoline vehicles.

With Tesla leading the charges for its own “Gigafactory” for battery production, the company’s blog predicts that the operation will, “reduce cell costs much faster than the status quo and, by 2020, produce more lithium ion batteries annually than were produced worldwide in 2013. By the end of the first year of volume production of our mass market vehicle, we expect the Gigafactory will have driven down the per kWh cost of our battery pack by more than 30 percent.”

Large numbers of individual cells help drive down unit costs as production increases.  This pack is from Nissan's Sunderland, UK plant

Large numbers of individual cells help drive down unit costs as production increases. This pack is from Nissan’s Sunderland, UK plant

Competitors such as A123 in America, Kokam in South Korea, Panasonic and Toshiba in Japan, and a multiplicity of European and Asian manufacturers produce enormous numbers of pouch and cylindrical cells for everything from laptops and cell phones to buses and trucks.

Batteries, because of their high count in electric vehicles, command interest for large-scale mass production, exactly where Elon Musk is directing his energies. Between Superchargers being installed nationwide by Tesla, strategically-placed chargers installed on state and federal highways, and thousands showing up in parking lots throughout urban areas, locating a place to “fill up” is getting to be less anxiety provoking for battery-driven EV owners.  Home chargers are dropping to as low at $395.

Aside from the 20-minute full charge a Tesla Supercharger makes possible, “topping up” ones batteries is still time consuming for most cars – fine with a home charger, or one in the boss’s parking garage, but less desirable on long trips.

The Hydrogen Alternative – Starting Late but Coming on Strong

Others are banking on hydrogen as the fuel of the future, using fuel cells to power the motors in their electric cars.  With fuel cell cars coming from Toyota, Honda and Hyundai, the Calfornia Energy Commission is pressing ahead to open new H2 fueling stations in the state by 2015.  Using $27.2 million in CEC grants and $7.2 million from Toyota, FirstElement Fuel will build 19 of these, another nine will come from grants to other proposals, and other stations are either already in place or being planned by automotive or fuel companies.

The motor in an EV doesn't care if the current flows from a battery or a fuel cell

The motor in an EV doesn’t care if the current flows from a battery or a fuel cell

H2 advocates say their vehicles can go 400 miles between fill-ups – much like modern gasoline vehicles.   Tesla claims 265 miles between charging stops, and Leafs generally manage about100 miles on a “full” battery. Others are limited to being city cars because of even lower range.

Even quadrupling the number of hydrogen refueling stations will limit fuel cell cars to Bay Area and SoCal locations for the time being.   One wonders how many stations exist in the area where Hyundai is releasing its first fuel cell vehicles.

Toyota’s FCV, destined for sales initially in California, will still be stretching its 300-mile range to make it from LA to San Francisco.   Developers will need to work hard to even come close to the 13,500 gasoline stations that dot the landscape in the state.

Honda's 2012 European Read Tour demonstrated range of H2-powered cars

Honda’s 2012 European Read Tour demonstrated range of H2-powered cars

Toyota’s National Manager of Advanced Technologies Craig Scott says that although fuel cell cars have been practical options for years, the infrastructure doesn’t yet exist to support their common use.

According to Techcrunch.com, “The simultaneous expansion of hydrogen infrastructure and the release of cars that can take advantage of them from Toyota, Honda and Hyundai in 2015 will have accelerating effects on the industry overall. Because of the availability of stations, Toyota is now able to move their hydrogen platform into mass production, which brings significant cost savings as the company can start bringing in parts from its other powertrains and build fewer parts “by hand” in limited quantities.”  The FCV’s price of $65,000 puts it solidly in Lexus/Audi/Porsche territory, and may prevent broader acceptance even as Tesla brings out its projected $35,000 Model III.

Joel Ewanick, FirstElement’s CEO, thinks costs for new H2 stations will drop by up to 50 percent over the next decade, and that those stations will be profitable within five years. He claims that 33 percent of hydrogen at his stations in southern California will come from renewable biogas, a mandated minimum required by the state.  35 percent of H2 in northern California will come from similar renewable energy, a necessary condition to make such fuels truly clean.  By comparison, electricity used to charge competitors in the Green Flight Challenge came from geothermal sites in Geyserville, making GFC competitors truly green aircraft.

Hybrid Alternatives?

Donald Sadoway, Professor of Materials Chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), thinks neither battery nor hydrogen cars are ready for prime time, but he reserves the greater criticism for fuel cells, citing their expense, the use of high-priced platinum, questions of safety, and lack of infrastructure.  Elon Musk and Renault-Nissan’s Carlos Ghosn both back batteries and downplay fuel cells.  So why are other demonstrably smart players in the market backing hydrogen and investing huge amounts on a very big bet?

Alternatives come in the form of the BMW i3, which offers an optional “range extender” to supplement the car’s on-board batteries.  Like a hybrid, the small internal combustion engine kicks in to carry the i3 beyond its limited battery range.  Despite this hedging of their bets, BMW’s board member Ian Robertson predicts greater battery development in the next three to four years than in the previous 100 years.  Dr Sadoway doesn’t expect that much even by 2030 without “massive new investment.”  He thinks that a $20,000, 125-mile range EV could be successful.

As the Detroit News suggests, this battle between battery backers and H2 proponents may leave plug-in hybrids as the current victors in the sales battle.

Rolling Your Own

Of course, creative types may turn to generating their own hydrogen.  After all, if one can spend $1,000 to install a 240-Volt electrical service to connect a $500 EV charger, why not install a hydrogen system to power the house, fuel the car and possibly the fuel cells for the personal aircraft?  Initial costs of around $100,000 may stunt such interests, but we will undoubtedly see those costs go down, just as they have for batteries and charging systems.  When such changes at higher levels take place, they inevitably become part of daily life – witness flat screen TVs, personal computers, and even cell phones – once toys for the One Percent, and now commodities for all.

Competition will probably sort out the eventual winners, or we will learn to live with multiple choices that could provide better, cleaner technology for our future flights.

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Eurosport Exploring New Configurations

Unhappily, we missed seeing Tom Leite at this year’s Electric Aircraft Symposium. Happily, he was at Eurosport Aircraft, his company in Portugal, working on innovative new approaches to making electric and hybrid motor-gliding a reality. He also has a speedster that would give those who desire rapid transit a high-style alternative.

As shown in the video from Aero Friedrichshafen, the Crossover will probably trend toward a simpler wing configuration, with a fixed span of 18 meters (59 feet) and flaperons that will replace the multiple flaps on the current short-span version being flown in test flights.

Black graphics on port side of Crossover show the engine-driven carbon shaft, Kevlar belts powering tail-mounted propeller

Black graphics on port side of Crossover show the engine-driven carbon shaft, Kevlar belts powering tail-mounted propeller

It’s uncertain whether the current twin-motors that pop out of the sides of the extremely slender fuselage will be retained, but a new version of the Crossover will feature three power options. As shown at Aero 2014, the airplane has the two options outlined on opposite sides of the fuselage – the port side displaying the Rotax-powered version, with a carbon-fiber shaft transmitting power from the engine to Kevlar belts that transfer the power to the tail-mounted propeller. The shaft is produced in collaboration with Best Composites in Germany, who seem to have mastered the art of making a long cantilever tube impervious to flexing and breaking while transmitting power to a folding propeller.

This aerodynamic configuration provides low drag under power and has been used on e-Genius and Stuttgart University’s Icare’ 2 solar-powered aircraft.

The starboard side has red outlines showing the hybrid version of the aircraft, with the engine driving an electrical generator, which passes its current through a frequency controller that makes the tail-mounted motor spin at a desired speed.

Cleverly-done graphics on starboard side of Crossover show hybrid power system

Cleverly-done graphics on starboard side of Crossover show hybrid power system

A third possibility would be to have just the motor, with batteries in the aircraft’s wings providing the motive power, somewhat like the arrangement on an Antares or Arcus.  The motor in either hybrid or pure electric versions will probably be an Emrax designed by Roman Susnik.

The new Crossover will have a 15 or 18-meter wing, probably manually changed with wing-tip extensions – a simpler, lighter approach than previously envisioned. As it is, even the longer span craft fits into Light Sport Aircraft territory, with its creators saying, “The light weight airplane combines characteristics of an ultralight and a glider, making it unique.” Its 297 kilogram (654 pound) empty weight is less than that of an early Piper Cub, but its long wings allow a best glide ratio of 44 to 1. It can cruise at 200 kilometers per hour (124 mph) at a low throttle setting, making it possible to exploit its batteries to their fullest extent in full electric or hybrid mode.

The video helps highlight the roomy cockpit, ease of entry and elegant extras like the electrically-adjustable rudder pedals and ultra-thin, pad-based instrumentation. We seem to get further from the traditional concept of a two-seat sport aircraft every day, getting more performance from smaller powerplants, and benefiting from creative approaches that companies like Eurosport Aircraft provide. You can keep up with their current activities on their Facebook page.

Eurosport Speedster is more conventional LSA design with many unconventional options

Eurosport Speedster is more conventional LSA design with many unconventional options

In yet another excursion into creative aerodynamics, Eurosport introduced its Speedster concept at Aero 2014.  It can be powered by a Rotax or ULS engine, and might even be available with Lamborghini-like doors.   As with everything that Eurosport does, it’s open to a series of highly creative decisions.

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EAS VIII: Dr. Jaiwon Shin Brings NASA to CAFE

The CAFE Foundation was honored this year to have Dr. Jaiwon Shin, Associate Director for the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate. at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), speak at the eighth annual Electric Aircraft Symposium.  His responsibilities at the agency, and his earnest regard for CAFE and its direction were evident during his talk.

According to his NASA biography, “Dr. Jaiwon Shin…  manages the agency’s aeronautics research portfolio and guides its strategic direction. This portfolio includes research in the fundamental aeronautics of flight, aviation safety and the nation’s airspace system.”  Such tasks include overseeing the next generation (NextGen) air traffic control system, funding promising research projects, crafting policies that will assure ongoing progress in creating cleaner, safer flight vehicles, and coordinating such activities with congress and other government agencies.

He pointed out that the first “A” in NASA stands for “Aeronautics,” the agency’s first major area of research and policy making.  Dr. Shin noted that the Wrights brought us powered, controlled flight in 1903, and by 1915, the government brought us NACA, the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics.  The organization became NASA in 1958, when it became apparent that the country was setting its eyes on realms beyond the terrestrial atmosphere.

Worker touches up the first "A" in NASA - for Aeronautics

Worker touches up the first “A” in NASA – for Aeronautics

Dr. Shin has a wide range of responsibilities, directing funds to aeronautical research, taking things from laboratory to market and finding ways that NASA can support growth and development in an industry that has major economic and environmental effects.  Adding $1.3 trillion to the U.S. economy, aviation provides America with a $47.2 billion positive trade balance while supporting 10.2 million direct and indirect jobs – 5.2 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.

He explained that the aviation market is growing and moving east, with the Asia-Pacific market adding 360 million people in the last five years.  The U.S. now has the second largest growth, with the global economy shifting toward new markets in Asia.

More people equate to more money, with much of that new revenue spent on travel.  Boeing and Airbus currently “split the take” on airliners, but as Asia-Pacific entities enter the market, it will be only a matter of time before that market is a three-way split.  A big part of Dr. Shin’s job is to ensure that America continues as a leading provider of commercial aircraft.

NASA has contributed to all of these advancements that make modern flight possible, according to Dr. Jaiwon Shin

NASA has contributed to all of these advancements that make modern flight possible, according to Dr. Jaiwon Shin

He listed some historical considerations.  As the world becomes predominantly urban, with 70 percent of the world’s people living in metropolitan areas by 2030, we will need to react quickly to changing social and technological challenges.  Things are speeding up, as Dr. Shin explained with the following examples:

  • Electricity, after its initial demonstration as a light source by Thomas Edison, took 46 years to reach 25 percent of the U. S. people.
  • The telephone took 26 years for widespread adaptation.
  • Radio took31 years to be in most homes.
  • Color TV was in most households within 18 years.
  • Mobile phones reached a wide-spread market in 13 years.
  • The World Wide Web took seven years to be a household norm.

How do these trends affect aviation?  Obviously, adoption of new technologies is having greater impacts more quickly.  We will have to be ready and resourceful to take advantage of the next big thing.

In the 19th century Sears grew because of expanding railroad infrastructures, a new delivery mechanism for that period, and pioneered mail-order catalogs.  Amazon jumped on the incursion of the Internet, and managed to undercut Sears’ outdated business model.  Because Sears failed to adapt to the new technology, it has suffered a decline.  Dr. Shin cautioned that the U. S. needs to take care with our “We’re Number 1 attitude.”  We don’t, as a country, become the new Sears or Kodak, especially in our aviation industry.

Dr. Shin sees three global forces driving the next generation of products and services; innovation, sustainability, and new technology.  He cautioned that if we don’t capitalize on those capabilities now, we could lose our competitive standing.

NASA's active support of the Green Flight Challenge shows strong involvement in promoting future flight

NASA’s active support of the Green Flight Challenge shows strong involvement in promoting future flight

He sees six strategic thrusts for which we need to provide leadership:

  1. global operational growth.
  2. Innovation.
  3. Ultra-efficient commercial transports.
  4. The transition to low-carbon propulsion.
  5. Real-time system-wide safety assurance.
  6. Assured autonomy for aviation transformation

Certainly the agency’s goals for green aviation fit well with the CAFE Foundation’s.  ”Through green aviation, NASA is helping create safer, greener and more effective travel for everyone. Our green aviation goals are to enable fuel-efficient flight planning, and reduce aircraft fuel consumption, emissions and noise.”

NASA’s Environmentally Responsible Aviation (ERA) Project is one aspect of creating the next generation of clean aircraft

NASA’s Environmentally Responsible Aviation (ERA) Project is one aspect of creating the next generation of clean aircraft

With those daunting responsibilities, Dr. Shin seems to maintain an optimism that the United States will retain a leading role in world aviation, the quest for green transport, and that organizations such as the CAFE Foundation will play an ongoing role in these ambitions.

 

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Pikes Peak 2014

Despite only three electric motorcycle entries this year (Zero alone fielded six production bikes last year) of 65 total, and seven automobiles in production and modified categories of 70 total entrants, upsets ensued on both two wheels and four at the 2014 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.

The three electric motorcycles all finished and did well.

The Brutus V2 is not the most powerful electric motorcycle to ever make it up the Peak.  Chip Yates’ 2011 ride had a 258-horsepower UQM motor and was probably more brutal than Brutus.  But this year’s results, even with far less power, show that weight, balance and handling probably count in the mix, too.

Yates managed a motorcycle record of 12.50 minutes in 2011, causing an inrush of competitive electric machines in the 2012 running.  Fumio Nutahara, driving a Toyota EV P002, made a run of 10 minutes, 15 seconds with two 350 hp. axial flux motors providing the impetus.

2013 saw Lightning take an outright motorcycle win, and the six production Zero bikes all finishing strong.  Wired last year reported, “[Carlin] Dunne managed to hustle the 500-pound, 200+ horsepower electrified motorcycle up the 12.42-mile, 156-turn mountain in 10:00.694 — that’s within spitting distance of the overall course record a few years back.

Jeff Clark with Zero bike - modified with liquid cooling this year

Jeff Clark with Zero bike – modified with liquid cooling this year

“But they didn’t just win the electric category, they decimated the closest gas-powered bike — a Ducati Multistrada 1200 S ridden by Bruno Langlois — who managed a time of 10:21.323.”

This year’s entries did not reach Lightning speed, but did achieve credible results from the two-wheeled threesome.  Jeff Clark rode a 2013 Zero production machine to a time of 11:59.8, Jeremiah Johnson turned in a 12:20.4 time on the Brutus V2, and Yoshiro Kishimoto took 13.36.7 on a 2014 Mirai modified Zero.

Brutus V2 Rocket shows almost military style, clean fairings riveted to frame

Brutus V2 Rocket shows almost military style, clean fairings riveted to frame

All electric bikes were considerably slower this year than the fastest gas-powered bike, an open-class 2013 Kawasaki ridden by Jeremy Toye in a 9:58.7 assault on the peak.  But consider that both of the two top-finishing electric bikes still beat Chip Yates’ 2011 time, and that shows some evidence of progress.

Four-wheelers bowed to Romain Dumas, flinging his 610 kilogram (1,342 pound), Honda-powered machine through the 156 corners in a little over nine minutes.  Car and Driver reported the finish this way:

Mitsubishi MiEV in much modified form takes corners on Pikes Peak with speed and grace

Mitsubishi MiEV in much modified form takes corners on Pikes Peak with speed and grace

“In the end, Dumas held off the hard-charging—pun intended—Mitsubishi MiEV Evo IIIs by a shade over two seconds, posting a 9:05.801 to Tracy’s 9:08.188. Masuoka was four seconds behind Tracy, making it to the top of the mountain in 9:12.204. Tajima hustled his fighter-canopied E-Runner to the finish line in 9:43.900.”

The power from Dumas’ two-liter engine rivaled that of engines fielded by Nissan and Porsche at this year’s Le Mans event, showing the potency of the electric machines in close pursuit.

As we see electric and hybrid vehicles making further inroads in the racing scene, we’ll look forward to next year’s range of entrants in all major events.  Will Nissan be able to make a significant move?  Will Porsche overcome this year’s lapse at Le Mans?  Will Lightning return to Pikes Peak?  With these thoughts swirling, and with the sure knowledge that motor, controller and battery manufacturers are looking for that next best thing, we see exciting races ahead.  And Formula E is just getting started!

"Monster" Tajima with monster electric machine in calmer setting than that on Pikes Peak

“Monster” Tajima with monster electric machine in calmer setting than that on Pikes Peak

All the attributes of successful road racing, aerodynamics, power, and reliability, go into aircraft and we will benefit from the contributions these racers are making to the art of speed.

(Editor’s Note: Big thanks to Marshall Houston for providing immensely helpful research on the Pikes Peak event.)

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The Green Speed Cup – Fourth Edition

Robert Adam helps run the Green Speed Cup, a time, speed and economy run for aircraft in Germany.  The rules for this year’s contest elucidate the intent and ambitions for the event: “The GREEN SPEED CUP is an aviation competition focusing on efficient flight. The emphasis lies on fast and energy saving transportation. The competition is meant to develop new methods to reduce energy consumption of motor driven aircraft using external energy sources like lateral winds and updrafts. In making the ability of certain aircraft and techniques transparent, the competition shall set new standards in general aviation.”

Combining speed with efficiency, the Green Speed Cup attempts to meld different flight styles to gain maximum speed and efficiency

Combining speed with efficiency, the Green Speed Cup attempts to meld different flight styles for highest performance in both realms

The Cup provides a sounding board for discussion of energy efficient flight and the changing experience of flying while exploring new techniques and technologies.  Hosted by STEMME Aviators e.V., the contest is open to “all aircraft capable of taking off under their own power,” with the following restrictions:

In the Electric Class, airplanes may have one to four seats, weigh up to 2,700 kilograms (5,950 pounds) and be capable of covering a maximum distance of 400 kilometers (216 nautical miles).

Aircraft in the Combustion Class may have piston or turbine engines, one to four seats, and weigh up to 2,700 kg (5.950 pounds).

All aircraft are required to have a properly operating Global Network Navigator Service (GNNS) receiver with a data-logging function.  Pilots turn in the recording medium (such as a memory stick or smart card) at the end of each task.  Tasks are primarily speed runs, with scoring based on the speed in kilometers per hour times a “seat coefficient” (0.9 for a single seater, 1.0 for two seats, and 1.2 for four seats) and that product divided by the craft’s energy consumption in kilowatts per hour.  All flights are made from Strausberg, giving Stemme an apparent home-field advantage, but not necessarily a run of victories.

Daily tasks take place between 500 and 3,000 feet above ground level, with penalties for dropping below that except for takeoffs and landings.

This year’s competition included a training day, which heightened anticipation of a good contest between “significantly different” aircraft.  That was dampened, however, by heavy rains on Sunday and Monday, costing valuable time and causing several competitors to bow out.

Friday, June 27th’s training day allowed the Ventus cM flown by Frank Bormann and the Stemme S6-RT piloted by Ralf Thormann and Phillip Scheffel to show off their extremely high efficiencies.  Because it was a good soaring day, both aircraft used cloud streets to partially float, engine off, around the 350 kilometer (217 mile) course.  The winning Stemme managed an average speed of 163 kilometers per hour (101.6 mph) while consuming only 6.1 liters per 100 kilometers (38.55 mpg) of avgas, or 77 passenger miles per gallon.  Admirable as that is, one can lament that the 400 pmpg e-Genius or Calin Gologan’s Elektra One were not on hand to show what electric aircraft can do.

Flight lineup with Davis DA-40 TDi in foreground

Flight lineup with Davis DA-40 TDi in foreground

The first official competition day saw four competitors facing off, with “weather conditions… much better than expected.”  During the second half of the 280 kilometer (173.6 mile) course Frank Bormann cut his Ventus’ engine to manage an overall 2.8 liters per 100 kilometers (84 mpg).  Organizers reported by “very happy” with the tactic, since “it represents a strategy of combining soaring including circling with using the engine.”  

Ventus achieved great efficiency and economy, but not high speeds

Ventus achieved great efficiency and economy, but not high speeds

In second place The DA-40 TDi flew slightly below cloud base and used thermals to help speed along on minimum power.  Robert Adam explains that the Davis seems like a “good concept in terms of cruise efficiency, an efficient diesel engine coupled with an efficient airframe.”

Third and fourth places went to a Taifun 17E and a Stemme S15, both of which used tactics similar to those of the DA-40.  You can see pictures of all the competition machines here.

The second competition day’s windy, showery weather forced a task of only 215 kilometers (133.3 miles).  Because of the lack of thermals, the David DA-40 TDi flown by Daniel Hirt and Markus Becker simply cruised at 194.1 kilometers per hour (120.3 mph), taking the win for the day.  The Ventus topped everyone for fuel consumption, though, burning only 5.5 liters per 100 kilometers (42.76 mpg) but at only 95 kilometers per hour (58.9 mph).

Robert Adam explains that even the shortened competition with fewer than expected entrants has an upside.  “Together with the training day the GSC-Team could collect a big set of flight data to improve the theories of efficient flying.”

“The winner of the GSC 2014 is the DA-40TDI. Its Diesel-Engine [proving] that it is able to handle those low power settings needed to reduce the fuel-consumption below 8-9l / 100km. Daniel Hirt tested a new mapping of the FADEC-Controlled injection engine, to reduce the energy consumption even more than in the last years. Obviously he made a good job. The DA-40TDI flies still with around 105kts (120.75 mph) at this minimum-power-setting.

“The 2nd place took the Ventus and its Pilot Frank Bormann.  The Ventus was able to compensate the low engine performance with the excellent gliding performance. The points on the first competition day were enough to reach the high total scoring.

“The third place was won by the STEMME S6-RT. On the training day the S6-RT could show how efficiently thermals can be used during powered flights.  With an average speed of almost 160km/h (99.2 mph),  it consumed only 6,1l/100km (38.55 mpg).  On the 2nd competition day the Stemme had no chance to use the thermals but even with these conditions it was able to reach an average speed of 147 km/h  (91.14 mph) and a consumption of 7,2l/100km (32.67 mpg). “

Stemme's S6-RT did well for both speed and efficiency, finished third overall

Stemme’s S6-RT did well for both speed and efficiency, finished third overall

Congratulations to all who managed through the less than ideal conditions and still achieved real-world excellence in flight performance.  We join the GSC organizers in looking forward to next year’s contest, especially with a contingent of electric aircraft in contention.

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The Personal Aircraft Design Academy

Brien A.Seeley M.D., PADA Program Chair and President of the CAFE Foundation, sends the following invitation.

“The highlight of Oshkosh AirVenture for me each year is the Personal Aircraft Design Academy (PADA), whose casual, delicious, catered buffet ‘networking’ dinner is followed by its colloquium for leading aircraft designers, enthusiasts and aero engineers. For 2014, the program will feature two exciting new aircraft:  “Dr. Johannes Stuhlberger from Airbus will present ‘The e-Fan Project’ and Richard Hogan from Commutercraft will present ‘The Innovator – a New 3-surface Aircraft’.”

The video here shows the interesting approaches Airbus is taking in the development of electric aircraft.  The last minute is of particular interest to blog readers.

“The 2014 PADA dinner will be at 6:15 PM on Friday August 1, at the large, white Nature Tent #3, which is in the wooded area about ¼ mile East of the EAA Museum. The PADA colloquium presentations, which are open to all and do not require attendance at the dinner, will follow at 7:30 PM in the air-conditioned Vette Theatre inside the AirVenture Museum. Several of the renowned previous PADA Trophy recipients are expected to dine and attend PADA 2014, where we will reveal and honor the 12th recipient of the perpetual PADA Trophy.

“To attend the dinner, you must preregister and pre-pay in advance using the easy online link below. Please visit this site now to get signed up.

“The rich history of PADA is available here

“PADA 2014 promises to be an outstanding meeting I urge all who are interested to sign up now before the PADA dinner runs out of seats!”

 

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Irena Raymond on Flying the Sunseeker Duo

A few days after posting the entry on the Raymond’s first cross country flight in their new solar-powered Sunseeker Duo, your editor received followups from Irena and Eric.  First, Irena shares her impressions of what sounds like a beautiful flight.

“Our XC flight with Duo was a great experience.

“First of all, because I don’t like too many surprises, I tried to prepare myself as best as possible for this expedition. I was studying the aeronautical chart to get more familiar with the Italian airspace and possible restrictions, looking also at the terrain and possible out landings (just in case. of course).

“And then the day of our flight was coming, bringing us a clear, sunny morning. At the noon time, there was not much thermal activity at our area, but far in the mountains we saw towering cumulus. And the GO decision was done.

“Everything went smoothly; with the help of the motor we reached first soarable hills. We have been thermalling for a while and then we decided to go above the clouds. The words cannot express the beauty of the view when flying in between and above the clouds.  It is like being in a sweet dream.

“I was flying almost half of the time and I am becoming used to a long wing span. Before, I was flying mostly the DA20 and 15 meter wing span gliders, now Duo requires being much stronger on the rudder, in the turbulent conditions also on the stick. I enjoy thermalling with Duo, it allows me to fly very slowly: I was able to fly it at only 30 mph and this makes it very efficient for climbing.

Propeller turning quietly, Sunseeker Duo on trip from Veghora to Pavullo, Italy

Propeller turning quietly, Sunseeker Duo on trip from Veghora to Pavullo, Italy

“In spite of the long wing span, it was easy to store the Duo in the Pavullo Aeroclub’s hangar because we folded the wings. I never really liked assembling and disassembling gliders because the wings are so heavy, especially for a woman. Duo, with so light wings is excellent so that. I can easily help Eric with [this task].

“Next morning we faced a surprise – strong NW wind (that means the strong headwind all the way back to our home base).

“The takeoff was really scary to me because of the rotors behind a hill. Later on we climbed again above the clouds and we even experienced the convergence. Eric has a lot of experience with that, for me it was the first time to fly in the convergence: unbelievably smooth, like flying in wave lift.

A happy Irena having completed the first ever dual solar cross-country flight

A happy Irena having completed the first ever dual solar cross-country flight

“It was surprisingly easy to come back to Voghera and I was happy to make very smooth landing. I am proud getting more and more experiences with not just flying the Duo, but also with takeoffs and landings.”

Eric had a concern with the photos your editor had chosen for the entry, and made a helpful suggestion.

“I think it would be better if you used at least one picture with the prop turning, such as the one in front of the clouds.  Otherwise I get more criticism that this is ‘just a glider, and not even a good one’, which I hear all the time.  We have plenty of stock photos of the plane taking off, but I hear people believing that it gets towed up by another plane, which is not true.  It does not have a tow hook.

“If you want to focus on the power side, which is important, The DUO is taking off with passengers up to 85 kg (187 pounds) and climbing at a good steep angle on 15 kW (20.1 horsepower) motor power. The climb rate is between 1.5 to 2 meters per second.  It has also taken off and climbed with only 5 kW (6.7 hp) – also with a passenger, but not much climb rate.  Altitude does not degrade the climb rate, at least not at 13,000 feet: we have not explored higher yet in the DUO.”  Readers can see the previously included video of the Duo performing quite capably here.

Seeing an alpine glacier at an altitude Eric enjoys.  His canopy opens, allowing him to hold camera out in the slipstream

Seeing an alpine glacier at an altitude Eric enjoys. His canopy opens, allowing him to hold camera out in the slipstream

“In the single seat SUNSEEKER, it climbs just the same at 22,000 ft, and we expect the DUO to be similar.  The key factor is being efficient enough to slowly climb on the direct solar power.  Then with patience you can get very high.  Getting permission to be up there is another factor, and air traffic controllers expect you to transition out of their airspace, so they do not need to keep keeping track of you.  Since I often appear stationary to them compared to a jet, a typical question is; ‘What are your intentions?’

Over the Cordillieras in central Spain - not Piper Cub low and not jumbo jet high

Over the Cordilleras of central Spain – not Piper Cub low and not jumbo jet high

“While you can see really far from high altitude, something majestic like the Alps starts to look like just some rocks and snow from 22,000 ft.  I prefer to be at altitudes where I can see the details on the ground.  Erosion patterns in Spain, the cracks in glaciers, etc.”

 

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An Electric Altitude Record in Short Sleeves

Gary Davis of Greenville, South Carolina set a world altitude record for electric trikes, about the simplest of powered flying machines.  His flight to 4,790 feet above mean sea level (under 4,000 feet above ground level) exceeded his hope to reach at least 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) and puts him and power system provider Randall Fishman in the record books, at least when the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI) ratifies the numbers.

Gary Davis under Northwing Stratus wing showing steep climb angle with ElectraFlyer motor

Gary Davis under Northwing Stratus wing showing steep climb angle with ElectraFlyer motor (photo courtesy Gary Davis)

Davis, a managing director in Nachman Norwood & Parrot Wealth Management Consultancy in Greenville, has that affiliation discreetly emblazoned on his North Wing Stratus wing.  The company, possibly because of Davis’s interest, has 25 kilowatts of solar panels helping power its offices, and Davis and wife Deborah Meadows both drive electric cars.  In a telephone interview, he pointed toward Greenville as the home of Prottera electric buses, a point of local pride.

He explained the simple flight profile he maintained, a quick takeoff, steep climb and circling in thermals until his 47-pound battery pack shut down and he glided back to the Greenville Downtown Airport – where he was greeted by a waiting throng.

Gliding back to Greenville Downtown Airport (photo courtesy Gary Davis)

Gliding back to Greenville Downtown Airport (photo courtesy Gary Davis)

Over 200 people showed up to watch the record attempt, including the Mayor of Greenville, an observer from the National Aeronautics Association (American representatives for the FAI) and several TV news crews.

Gary Davis and ElectraFlyer trike surrounded by admirers following record flight

Gary Davis and ElectraFlyer trike surrounded by admirers following record flight

In an interview with the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, he sees himself as having set a challenge to others.  “I’m looking forward to people pushing the technology to where we go further, faster, and higher with electric,” Davis said. “The technology is going to be all about the batteries. That’s the key.”

He explains that his mount is a relatively inexpensive way to go record breaking, but that he is looking forward to building a carbon-fiber craft that could fly faster on less power to go after speed and distance records.   He hopes to attract a sponsor or two for that project.  As noted before in this blog, the record books are wide open for budget attempts at setting records in this new realm of powered flight.  He could also add a simple reduction gear and larger propeller to his trike, resulting in an even better rate of climb for future altitude attempts.

Fishman, who supplied the trike and power system, was delighted at the announcement of the achievement with his “medium” battery pack, especially in light of the 93° temperatures on the ground, a deterrent to best rate of climb.  Those watching the video will not discern any such problem.

We can only hope that Gary Davis will continue to go after new records – and find sponsorships to help make them happen.

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Bruno Mombrinie, a director for the CAFE Foundation, and Dr. Brien Seeley, founder and President of the organization, gave a one-two presentation on pocket airports and Sky Taxis that examined the practical and operational facets of such a program, first described in detail in a joint NASA/CAFE Foundation document. 

According to Bruno’s CAFE biography, “As a freshman, he helped build MIT’s Chrysalis human powered airplane. Later that summer he got to fly the plane several times. ‘The feeling of being so, so high (39ft)…to fly under my own power was beyond…I just wanted to burst…actually I was so out of breath from the effort, I could hardly mouth ‘yippee!’”  (The Chrysalis, and other MIT designs led to Daedalus, the HPA that flew from Crete to Sicily on April 23, 1988 – 72.44 miles in less than four hours.)

Bruno Mombrinie took the picture of the Chrysalis passing overhead.  A photo editor at PM cut and pasted the image of him running after the airplane

Bruno Mombrinie took the picture of the Chrysalis passing overhead. A photo editor at Popular Mechanics cut and pasted the image of him running after the airplane

This experience with extreme pedal power probably helped inspire his work on the Negative Mass two-piece crankset, reputedly the world’s lightest and stiffest bicycle crankset.  His expertise helped Lisa Vetterlein set the woman’s human powered vehicle land speed record of 66.65 mph in 2005.

Lisa Vetterlein tries Bruno's crankset before record run

Lisa Vetterlein tries Bruno’s crankset before record run

He’s involved in several entrepreneurial enterprises, having sold a specialized medical equipment company a few years ago and now helping promote CAFE and its many forward-thinking programs, including the Sky Taxi.

He envisioned a dual runway, minimum footprint airpark, with a square layout to allow taking off and landing in all wind directions.  The square, 80 meters per side, would eliminate crosswind operations, and the autonomous two-seaters would be whisking passengers in and out with great precision.  Battery swaps would take 18 seconds, according to Bruno, enabling rapid turnarounds and careful tending of the state of the all-important batteries.

Airports within 100-mile radius around the Bay Area

Airports within 100-mile radius around the Bay Area

With pocket airports sprinkled throughout a metropolitan area (San Francisco and the Bay Area in his presentation) and even integrated into major airports, passengers could land near desired locations or transfer to or from scheduled airline flights.  Further integration with commuter trains or other public transit would reduce overall ground traffic and free up freeways and byways.  Travel would be on demand, with sufficient Sky Taxis on hand to send people on 50 to 200 mile trips as needed.  Costs per passenger would be about 50 cents per kilometer or about 81 cents per mile.  Try finding a taxi that will take you that same 100 miles for a lower cost – or with anywhere near that speed.

Pocket airports within SFO - allowing passengers from other pocket airports to reach their domestic or international flight quickly and easily

Pocket airports within SFO – allowing passengers from other pocket airports to reach their domestic or international flight quickly and easily

Best of all, this could be the start of a major injection of capital into the economy, with up to a trillion dollars in economic activity derived from this novel form of personal transport.

Following a coffee break, Dr. Seeley followed up with “Payload, Proximity and Pascals,” an overview of the physics, aerodynamics, and logistics required to help reach the happy state described in Bruno’s talk.  He talked about the imperative need to do something to reduce human-caused carbon emissions – 63 percent of which created in the last 25 years.

Dr. Seeley highlights features of proposed Sky Taxi

Dr. Seeley highlights features of proposed Sky Taxi

To make big changes, we need to develop binding standards.  At one time, according to Dr. Seeley, America had seven different railroad gauges, limiting the range and usefulness of individual rail systems.  We must plan a standard in advance that allows interoperability among all users, before the waste that comes from changes needed after initial implementation become apparent.

Dr. Seeley described many of the essential mission requirements for the pocket airport and the types of electric STOL aircraft that could fly from these ballpark-sized aerodromes at the Aviation Unleashed conference in 2010.  Proximity is “the holy grail” for successful implementation of such user-friendly enterprises.  Most airports today are far from population centers, driven there by noise laws and the natural reluctance to have million-pound objects zooming overhead.  Another aspect prevents more airparks distributed around the landscape – the “hardscape,” or areas already covered with buildings, highways, and other impediments to long runways and airport support structures.

Pascals, or units of energy per cubic meter required for rapid acceleration and steep, quiet climbs from the airport would keep neighbors happy.  Noise would non-negotiably be limited to less than 60 dBa at 40 meters (131 feet).   Thus, the planned Green Flight Challenges II, III, and IV will be devoted to rewarding those technologies that can speed a Sky Taxi to takeoff speed, help it climb steeply and emit ultra-low levels of noise while transporting its lucky passengers in safe, sustainable flight.

On March 11, the Foundation used Director Alan Soule’s Tesla S sedan to test noise against acceleration.  The car is a big, powerful vehicle, with a curb weight of 4,647 pounds and a loaded weight of 4,820 pounds with Alan driving solo.  Its 310 kilowatt (415 horsepower) motor took it from 0-73 kilometers per hour (45.26 mph) in 3.2 seconds – not supercar fast, but quick enough to reach Sky Taxi takeoff speed in 31.4 meters (103 feet).  For the equivalent power, a 600 kilogram (1,320 pound) Sky Taxi would require an 85 kW (114 hp) powerplant.  The Tesla passed the sidelines 40 meters from the track while producing only 60 dBa, certainly within the goals sought by NASA and CAFE personnel for neighborhood friendliness.

Definitely, high-torque wheel motors could play a part in accelerating Sky Taxis.  This one aspect of future commuter aircraft, coupled with liftoff to half a meter (1.64 feet) in less than 55 meters (180 feet) will comprise the main elements of GFC II and subsequent challenges.  Vertical takeoff and landing craft might have an advantage here, but hot air balloons would be forbidden.  They probably wouldn’t meet the cross-country requirements anyway.

Scoring will rely on an “empirical curve fit” for the aircraft that best combines payload, takeoff over an obstacle, quietness, and ease of recharging, among other demonstrable abilities.  This series of contests would provide an “autocatalytic” stimulus to new directions in aircraft development, prove the feasibility of NASA’s priorities for green, quiet, sustainable advances that enhance airspace capacity and safety, and that enhance CAFE and NASA’s mission to bring forth innovations “for the good of all.”

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