Power Of The Future

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Rooted In The Past...

For now, the closest "new" technology that means anything to power GA is an idea that's been kicking around for decades and with companies like Boeing getting serious about it, an electric airplane, powered by a fuel cell, is not only feasible, it might even be desirable for some applications. As we've reported previously, Worcester, Mass.-based Advanced Technology Products (ATP) is at the forefront of this technology. We've tweaked, we've tuned and we've wrung just about everything we can from the two basic engine designs that power today's airplanes, but is electric power poised to replace the pistons and turbines that now make us go? The short answer is no, but ATP, along with its non-profit research partner, the Foundation for Advancing Science and Technology Education (FASTec), had already almost completed their own E-plane when Boeing asked them to put together the power package for its plane. Boeing chose the Diamond Katana Extreme motorglider airframe as its platform and ATP picked the UQM Technologies electric motor, similar to the one in its own aircraft, to power the Boeing project. ATP will also fit the controllers and backup batteries into the aircraft. A flight test is anticipated in the next year or two. Using a fuel cell, ATP has predicted 100-knot cruise speeds and a range of about 150 miles in early versions of its electric planes and since many of us don't demand much more from our airplanes, there could be some appeal to the simple, smooth, and virtually silent (save the propeller) propulsion system.