...As E-Plane Readies For Testing

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Meanwhile, here in the U.S., the intrepid folks at the FASTec project, based in Worcester, Mass., are working away on their hydrogen-powered electric airplane. "We expect our first flight sometime in late December or maybe early January," Jim Dunn, director of the project, told AVweb on Saturday. Advanced high-energy, lithium-ion batteries will power the first flight as the first step in the long process of developing a flight-ready system that will work on hydrogen-powered fuel cells. The E-Plane is scheduled to start ground testing around the 13th of December, Dunn said. Battery testing is progressing, and the team is working on the motor mount and is finishing the avionics package. The second phase will fly with a combination of the batteries and a 10- to 15-kW fuel cell. In its final form, the E-Plane will fly solely on the power of a fuel cell and have a 500-mile range, with emergency assist from reserve lithium ion batteries. Fuel cells, unlike batteries, generate electricity rather than just store it. They are fueled by hydrogen and oxygen gases, and can operate as long as they are fed the gas, which can be produced by solar power. FASTec foresees wide use of electric planes in the future because they are simpler to build and maintain, produce zero emissions, and are inherently quiet.