Has the great leap forward for electric airplanes just occurred? NASA thinks so and to demonstrate their resolve, they’ve just bestowed the largest prize ever awarded in aviation history to an all-electric aircraft.
The prize of $1.35 million went to Pennsylvania-Based glider/ultra-light aircraft manufacturer Team Pipistrel-USA.com for the amazing exploits of their Taurus G4 electric airplane during the CAFE Green Flight Challenge.
To qualify for the challenge, an aircraft had to had to fly a 200-mile course in less than two hours. That doesn’t seem too difficult, but there’s a catch: all qualifiers had to complete the course using less than one gallon of fuel per occupant of the aircraft. Team Pipistrel and the second place team eGenius, of Ramona, CA, which were both electric-powered, achieved twice the fuel efficiency requirement of the competition, meaning they flew 200 miles using just over a half-gallon of fuel equivalent per passenger.
“Two years ago the thought of flying 200 miles at 100 mph in an electric aircraft was pure science fiction,” said Jack W. Langelaan, team leader of Team Pipistrel-USA.com. “Now, we are all looking forward to the future of electric aviation.” All told, 14 teams entered the contest. Only three were able to meet the qualifying benchmark.
The CAFE Green Flight Challenge didn’t operate in a NASA funded bubble only either – entities like Google were involved in sponsorship as well.