Cars and other land-bound vehicles aren't the only ones going electric. EV helicopters might not be ready for hours of flight, but electric airplanes sure are. During the recently concluded NASA Green Aviation Prize, electric airplanes proved that they can effectively and efficiently soar the skies for hours at a time. Team Pipistrel USA's electric aircraft, the Taurus G4, won the $1.35 million prize — the largest yet in aviation history."Two years ago the thought of flying 200 miles at 100 mph in an electric aircraft was pure science fiction," says team leader, Jack W. Langelaan.
A total of 14 teams registered for the Google-sponsored contest, but only three met requirements and competed for the prize. The three aircraft flew the skies of Santa Rosa, California in a competition that challenged them to travel 200 miles in less than 2 hours. Two of the competitors succeeded, but Taurus G4 excelled due to that fact that it carried not only two pilots but also two sacks of concrete to represent additional passengers. The aircraft that got second place, on the other hand, only carried its two pilots.
The competitors used geothermal-generated electricity to charge their airplanes' batteries. It took Pipistrel only $7 worth of charge to fly the Taurus G4 for over two hours thanks to the aircraft's efficiency. Maybe in time electric and solar-powered airplanes can provide us with cheaper air travel. Team Pipistrel will not keep all of $1.35 million, though. Instead, part of it will be donated to the next NASA challenge for supersonic electric aircraft.