Electric motorcycle racer Chip Yates recently took to the air with a plane originally built by aviation pioneer Burt Rutan, but retrofitted with a big electric motor. The result was a new speed record for an electric airplane, 202.6 mph in level flight.
The flight was rather short, however. The plane ran out of juice after hitting the record and Yates glided it in for a landing.
The plane, called a Long-ESA, (for Electric Speed and Altitude), is a modified Long-EZ. Yates says it is a development platform for an electric aircraft system to be used for a flight across the Atlantic scheduled for 2014. To get across the pond, the plane will have to be recharged in mid air. Yates says his company, Flight of the Century (FOTC), is working on that idea.
The flight of the electric Long-ESA lasted only 16 minutes. Long-ESA will eventually get a bigger battery pack and Yates hopes to hit a top speed of 230 to 250 mph with the new batteries in September.
Yates will also bring his plane to the 2012 EAA AirVenture Oshkosh event.
Details of the mid-air recharging idea seem to still be in flux. The plane will get a front-mounted recharging probe to test mid-air tethering and battery jettison. Work is also required on what FOTC calls rebalance technologies, necessary when a plane changes its battery pack in mid air and thus its CG.
FOTC web site: http://www.flightofthecentury.com/
Here is a YouTube clip. Yates says a more detailed acount will be available at the Oshkosh event: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wPK7649SrDA&feature=player_embedded#!