Pipistrel Earns First Electric Aircraft Type Certificate

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Pipistrel’s Velis Electro became the first-ever fully electric aircraft to receive its type certification on Wednesday. According to the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), which granted the certificate, the certification process for the aircraft was completed in less than three years. The Pipistrel E-811 engine used on the aircraft became the first EASA-certified electric aircraft engine on May 18, 2020.

“The type certification of the Pipistrel Velis Electro is the first step towards the commercial use of electric aircraft, which is needed to make emission-free aviation feasible,” said Pipistrel Aircraft founder and CEO Ivo Boscarol. “It confirms and provides optimism, also to other electric aircraft designers, that the Type Certificate of electric engines and aeroplanes is possible.”

Designed primarily as a trainer, the two-seat Velis Electro has a cruise speed of 90 knots, 600-kg (1320-lb.) maximum takeoff weight, 172-kg (378-lb.) payload and endurance of up to 50 minutes plus VFR reserve. It is a fully electric derivative of Pipistrel’s Virus SW 121. Slovenia-based Pipistrel says it has plans to deliver 31 Velis Electros in 2020.

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36 COMMENTS

  1. It’s going to be pretty cool in a few years when Li-S batteries mature which have an energy density 5X that of current Li-Ion batteries. That would extend the range of this aircraft up to 6 hours plus VFR reserve!

    I have watched a few videos of the Pipestrel Electro in flight. It’s amazing how quiet it is. And from what I have read, there is practically zero vibration and the maintenance cost is a fraction of that of a combustion engine. Not to mention that the “fuel” cost is about $3.00 per hour!

    It won’t be long before we start seeing 4-seat version of this aircraft.

  2. Congratulations. Now, some questions:

    Do the cited endurance numbers provide for heating the cabin during a typical 0° F winter flight? If not, then what is the endurance penalty for that requirement?

    How long is the re-charge interval between revenue flights?

    Where in the United States is the weight of a typical occupant – like a student or an instructor – 180 pounds or less? (Elementary schools don’t count!)

    How far from the airport environment dare you stray, during a 35-minute-limit night flight?

    The cited numbers seem to make this vehicle almost exclusively a traffic-pattern machine. How durable can we expect the airframe to be, in 100% touch-and-go employment?

    IMWO, the MINIMUM performance requirements for ANY successful 2-place trainer include a 500-pound useful load, and a 3-1/2 hour endurance. Most flight schools simply cannot afford a mini-fleet of pattern-only 50%-duty-cycle aircraft, PLUS a companion fleet of cross-country-capable vehicles. A really good simulator would be a better investment.

    Time will tell..

    • The typical Cessna 152 has a payload with full fuel of about 350lbs, give or take, so the Pipestrel is pretty much on target there.

      Several months ago I sent an email to Pipestrel asking about future plans for battery technology and the gist of their reply was that they would certify newer batteries as they became available and the fact that the aircraft has two removable battery unit means that you can remove one battery to increase payload. So 5 to 10 years from now when Li-S batteries have become viable options you could have up to 6 hours endurance with both batteries or 3 hours with only one battery and additional payload.

      I can see 10 years from now that a flight school would invest in a fleet of electric aircraft and have extra battery modules so that they are charging modules on the ground for immediate swap. Battery technology is about to make a quantum leap as challenges with Li-S and Li-CO2 technologies are solved in labs. This current version of the Pipestrel is a stepping stone, and a rather impressive one at that.

    • Empty weight: 605 lb
      Max. takeoff weight: 745 lb
      Powerplant: 170 lbs 12hp
      Maximum speed: 30 mph
      Service ceiling: 30 ft

      No radio, no battery, single “seat” and most importantly, no heater.

      It’s a wonder why the Wright brothers even bothered. They should have stuck to bicycles.

  3. “The typical Cessna 152 has a payload with full fuel of about 350lbs, give or take, so the Pipestrel is pretty much on target there.”

    But that full-fuel C-150 has an endurance of several hours. And the option of eschewing fuel, for more weight in the cabin. The Pip offers none of that.

  4. Not a useful device for several reasons.

    1. Range/endurance incompatible with travel or out of pattern training.
    2. Useful load useless in a land where few people anymore weigh FAA average.
    3. Fire risk due to batteries not to be underestimated. Witness well documented spontaneous Tesla fires.
    4. The point regarding cabin heat is an important one.
    5. What about draw from radios and avionics and lighting?
    6. What about battery cooling during use and charging? If no specific cooling system battery longevity is reduced. I suspect this will mean in the long run the fuel cost savings will be mitigated when battery replacement and TBO are considered. Witness the difference in longevity of a Tesla vs. a Leaf battery (cooled vs. uncooled).
    7. This is an answer to a problem that does not exist. Fuel is cheap and plentiful. We are discovering more and more sources and will not run out for generations. Piston engines are improving by leaps and bounds (an example Mazda’s new Skyactive compression ignition gasoline piston engine) and if allowed into airplanes would drastically cut operating and acquisition costs without having to make such unnecessary and drastic cuts in utility.

    • “1. Range/endurance incompatible with travel or out of pattern training.” – If you were told the cost of parts of your training would be cut by half or more if you used an electric aircraft, would you adapt how your training was delivered, or demand to pay more for conventional training? I know I would. Attention spans are short anyway.
      “2. Useful load useless in a land where few people anymore weigh FAA average.” – And yet pretty well all the airplanes we fly were certified to an FAA average person. Doesn’t seem to be too much of a problem for them.
      “3. Fire risk due to batteries not to be underestimated. Witness well documented spontaneous Tesla fires.” – It’s an EASA certified airplane. No doubt whatsoever they had to prove that the risk of fire is below an acceptable threshold in order to get that certificate. Also, last time I checked Avgas was kinda flammable too, and fires are known to happen on GA aircraft.
      “4. The point regarding cabin heat is an important one.” – And yet a lot of older airplanes don’t have cabin heaters, and on Cessnas anyway, they stop providing heat when you turn on the carb heat anyway. I guess you young pilots are soft. Also, given that the batteries and motor are liquid-cooled, I would guess they have a cabin heater of some sort.
      “5. What about draw from radios and avionics and lighting?” – Compared to the draw from the powerplant, probably nearly negligible.
      “6. What about battery cooling during use and charging? If no specific cooling system battery longevity is reduced. I suspect this will mean in the long run the fuel cost savings will be mitigated when battery replacement and TBO are considered. Witness the difference in longevity of a Tesla vs. a Leaf battery (cooled vs. uncooled).” – Batteries and motor are liquid cooled. Yes, there is going to be a cost to replacing the batteries at some point years down the road, but how much does it cost to overhaul an O-200 these days? The electric motor on this will have a very very low overhaul cost since it has primarily 1 moving part. Not to mention that it’s unlikely to need regular oil changes, spark plug changes, magneto replacements/repairs, valve problems, starter issues, generator problems, and the list goes on.
      “7. This is an answer to a problem that does not exist. Fuel is cheap and plentiful.” – Show me one non-electric airplane that you can fly for 50 minutes on $3 of fuel. I’ll wait.

      Got any more reasons this is “not a useful device”?

      • Price of the electric plane with charger is $181,000
        Same plane with normal powerplant is $94,000
        Delta is $87,000 which is at least 19,000 gas or 3,800 hours of flight.

        So from an economic view the electric version makes no sense.

        Simply put the purpose of a plane is to have fun and go places. This plane may be fun (it flies, ergo it’s fun) but it can’t GO places. It can screw around the pattern and right back to it’s charger.

        I agree our gas powerplants have major issues. Most of the issues can be mitigated by allowing modern technology into certificated airplanes. Electric is not necessary.

        The day may come when batteries are good enough for electric airplanes (and cars, trucks and motorcycles) but that day is not today. Tomorrow is not looking good either.

        There is always a new breakthrough just a few years away. It has yet to materialize. If and when it does I’d consider an electric vehicle, if price competitive and produced by a legacy manufacturer.

        • “Price of the electric plane with charger is $181,000
          Same plane with normal powerplant is $94,000
          Delta is $87,000 which is at least 19,000 gas or 3,800 hours of flight.” – That’s a very simplistic cost analysis. It assumes that maintenance costs for the two aircraft are identical, which is highly, highly unlikely. Plus, if you’re in Europe, Avgas costs $10 USD/gallon, which means the break-even in your overly simplistic analysis is closer to 1800 hours, or less than one TBO. Again, maintenance costs will not be the same, so expect the break-even point to be much lower.

          “Simply put the purpose of a plane is to have fun and go places. This plane may be fun (it flies, ergo it’s fun) but it can’t GO places. It can screw around the pattern and right back to it’s charger.” – That’s not the purpose of a trainer. The purpose of a trainer is to teach people how to fly. You could also say that an F-16 is a useless cargo airplane. Though true, it’s irrelevant and no reflection on the F-16.

          Most training flights are already less than 2 hours long, often more like 1.5 hours or less, so cutting that down to 50 minutes is not that big a stretch. This aircraft is not designed to “go places”.

          “I agree our gas powerplants have major issues. Most of the issues can be mitigated by allowing modern technology into certificated airplanes. Electric is not necessary.” – There’s nothing preventing an individual or a company from incorporating “modern technology” into certificated airplanes, provided they certify their installation. But nobody has done that. Hmm. Maybe because it’s actually cost-prohibitive and doesn’t provide enough of a benefit to justify the expenditure? I’m sure someone would love to spend $80,000 to replace the engine in their Cirrus with something more modern in order to get a 10% reduction in fuel burn. There’s only so much more efficiency you can pull from an internal combustion engine.

          “The day may come when batteries are good enough for electric airplanes (and cars, trucks and motorcycles) but that day is not today. Tomorrow is not looking good either.” – Disagree. The day is here. Global electric car sales were over 2,000,000 in 2018, up from 500,000 just three years earlier. The market seems to disagree that today is not the day for cars. Now that an EASA certification is granted, the only thing holding back the electric airplane are the closed-minded people screaming “But that’s not how things are done!!” Meanwhile, Pipistrel is off producing 4-6 electric airplanes per month.

          “I’d consider an electric vehicle, if price competitive and produced by a legacy manufacturer” – For this role, the electric aircraft is already price competitive, and Pipistrel has produced over 2000 airplanes. Not legacy enough for you? And again, role considered, there are plenty of electric cars that are price competitive as well. You just have to consider the actual cost of owning and operating a vehicle.

          • $87,000 more money is not price competitive.

            Why not get the piston version which can do all the training missions the electric plane is meant for and can also go cross country for less money and higher performance?

            Is virtue signaling a thing amongst pilots as it is Tesla owners?

          • “$87,000 more money is not price competitive.”

            Do you still not get that operation costs are a thing??

  5. If Pipistrel would create and sale a Homebuilt conversion kit the technology would develop a lot faster. This Motor produces approximate 77 hp for take-off and 65 hp continuous. Many two stroke operators would change out to electric and create some unique improvements.

    There’s a Twin Engine Supercub project (DoubleEnder Cub). I would like to use a Rotax 914 with extra generator and an Electric Motor assist for a 75 hp takeoff boost. Turn the bellypod into a battery pack.

  6. Daniel, don’t confuse energy density and endurance. Just because the chemistry of LiS or LiCO2 is more energy dense, does not equate to the same multiple of endurance. So, a five-fold increase in density does not necessarily equal five additional hours of endurance. Plus, the higher energy density will probably require longer charge times, so more time on the ground between uses. All lithium based battery systems have specific charge and discharge rates that can be significantly different from traditional lead-acid or cadmium/nickel type batteries. Boeing found that out the hard way with their attempts at using lithium based batteries on the 787.

    I am not opposed to electric drive aircraft. In fact, I would love to ditch the venerable Lycoming four-banger in my Cardinal for a low-maintenance, clean running electric motor. And, technology may eventually make that possible. Unfortunately I don’t see mainstream electrics in less than a decade. Kudos to Pipistrel for pioneering the technology, though.

  7. I agree with Klaus except I would add the engine, ESC, and battery manufacturer into providing electric FWF 65-100hp electric engine kits to the home-built community. Electric RC technology has evolved into some powerful 10-35HP electric motors. A lot has been learned from the RC hobby industry. Experimental aviation will definitely move electric flight economics faster and more efficiently than any one manufacturer.

    Pipistrel basically invented the niche and then filled it with a viable product. They are generating their own market and can ignore the piston single cost, performance comparison debate for now. To me, is the proverbial apples to oranges comparison.

    150/152’s are too small for the US largely fat flyer. 172’s are more expensive to operate especially when they are being used primarily for an hour or so. Pipistrel has an airplane a fat person can comfortably get into and sit in. Very little noise, no vibration, and very little wear for full throttle to idle operations. Their electric fills that area of pattern work very well which is a significant portion of the flight training regime. Pattern work is the hardest on piston engine operations. Since all flight schools already own piston singles of varying shapes and sizes, they are not investing any more dough to fill in the cross country requirements the Pipistrel cannot presently do. But that will change and improve over time.

    Besides, I think we would get better pilots flying light wing loading airplanes for primary training transitioning to heavier traditional piston singles for the remainder of the Private Pilot licensing requirements. Kudos to Pipistrel for job well done.

  8. EASA Type Certificate A.0.092 was issued in 2016 to the Lange E1 Antares, which is an aircraft capable of takeoff, cruise, and landing completely under electric power. The fact that it is a self-launching *glider* should not remove it from consideration.

  9. Love that electric aircraft are now getting airborne. Reiner Stemme’s new electric-hybrid design answers all range objections until advancing battery technology makes hybrid redundant. Personally I’m done with avgas, oil, noise, engine run-ups, shock cooling, compression checks, CO2 monitors, lead poisoning and fuel cost! Kudos to Pipistrel, Bye Aerospace, Magnix, Harbor Air, Rolls Royce, Eviation and all the other forward looking companies moving aviation forward. The future is bright, cleaner, quieter and cheaper.

  10. Congratulations to Pipistrel on achieving the Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) qualification from EASA for the Velis Electro in much of Europe (the EU). They have worked hard to achieve this electric aircraft milestone and are a true pioneer in advancing this important technology. Well done.

  11. Pipistrel are an extraordinary firm . Brilliant technologists , lateral thinkers , and courageous with it .
    Three times winner of the NASA GreenFlight Challenge . Whilst most of the GA plane builders continue to polish 1950’s technology , their blushes saved by the brilliance of the avionics industry’s innovation , Ivo Boscarol is striding out and finding a new path . Small country , modest company , big future . Congratulations ,

  12. The market will be the judge of this airplane’s usefulness. It is difficult to have primary students going between airplane types without a bit of regression of skills. Using the electric and dinosaur juice fueled aircraft will most likely lengthen the training time.
    Unless an operator uses solar or wing power, then the emissions from the electric generation will be there just occurring at a different location.
    I personally like to see companies make bold moves toward new technogogy. Don’t expect Cessna or Piper to do so. I would be very happy to just get the lead out of our fuel and start using some modern FADEC for our engines.

    • This is part of what I was advocating. The technology for better piston engines is out there but the FAA prevents it from being easily and cheaply integrated into aviation. Mazda with Skyactive. Nissan with variable compression, Mercedes with awesome diesel technology to name just a few.

      Emissions concern me not at all. Even if CO2 was a factor in my health, how much could GA possibly contribute? Nothing.

      Electric motors DO have advantages over piston engines BUT batteries are still inadequate. How well does your cell phone hold up over the years? Your laptop?. Nissan Leafs are effectively totaled by battery degradation and the high cost of replacement. Tesla batteries appear to hold up well but they have only been producing cars and batteries for only 8 years and in limited numbers so impossible to extrapolate that information at this point.

      As far as the lead in the fuel, again it concerns me not at all from a health point of view but I’d prefer to run on unleaded just because its cleaner cheaper more available and will be inexpensive and available (barring government and ecomentalist intervention) for decades to come.

      I do see the potential future advantages of electric propulsion for cars motorcycles trucks and even planes but it is still so far in the future because there are no effective batteries to power them.

      If and when there are better batteries or fuel cells and cars are made by reputable manufactures at a competitive price (Mercedes-Benz, Cadillac, Audi etc) I’ll buy one.

      Cars like the Taycan are intriguing but comically overpriced so I’ll be driving my 500 HP S Class Benz for many years to come.

      • Just a note: Tesla delivered its first roadster TWELVE years ago. Their battery tech is merely SOTA, but certainly better engineered than some others. I’d buy a battery from them before one from Cadillac.

  13. FAA can only certify what they know. It is unlikely that they will ever learn enough about batteries to proceed. The battery weight will not change unless you are willing to buy new battery packs every few months. When you gain in one direction – you will lose in another. The only way to extend your flight time is to use an onboard generating system. Hydrogen fuel cells is the next step.

  14. My old Bo has electric prop, electric flaps, and electric landing gear. All I need now is an electric motor to be an all electric airplane. Hey, 3 outta 4 is not bad for something built in 1953. Plus, with my old E-225-8, I run unleaded, non-ethanol fuel eliminating the lead issue. Runs great at less than half the cost of avgas. Who says 50’s airplanes are not “modern”, fuel efficient, plus doing its part not contributing to lead pollution. Old can be new.

    There are companies rebuilding first generation Ford Broncos and early Porsches with electric power trains. Maybe they might be interested in doing a conversion on first generation Bonanzas, too!

  15. The Tesla Roadster was merely a butchered Lotus and sold in such low numbers I don’t count it. Also witness what a failure it was on the now famous Top Gear episode where it was reviewed and tested. Only in 2012 with the Model S did Tesla sell enough cars to make a small blip on the car sales radar screen. After eight years they are still selling the same car; even the Model S is now outdated.

    Comparison to the Model T is a false comparison. In it’s day the Model T was the most affordable most advanced best built most capable technology its time. This electric airplane is none of those things. This would be like comparing the Model T to cars built in the sixties.

    As far as battery technology goes, if electric cars catch on I expect legacy German and Japanese engineering will render Tesla’s old technology obsolete. Solid state? Fuel cells?