Texas Aircraft Developing eColt

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Texas Aircraft Manufacturing has announced that it is developing a fully electric aircraft based on its Colt S-LSA design. Development of the eColt is being conducted in partnership with lithium-sulfur (Li-S) battery technology company OXIS Energy. The aircraft’s key airframe and power components will be manufactured in Brazil with design and development taking place at Texas Aircraft Manufacturing’s facility in Campinas.

“We feel very proud and truly blessed to be working on this exciting program with OXIS Energy,” said Texas Aircraft Manufacturing CEO Matheus Grande. “With its wide cabin and exceptionally pilot-friendly flight characteristics, the eColt is going to be a fantastic airplane for flight training and personal transportation in Brazil and around the world.”

OXIS is currently projecting that the two-seat eColt will have an endurance of greater than two hours and range of approximately 200 NM. According to the company, the aircraft’s powertrain will be supplied by WEG of Jaraguá do Sul while the battery and its management system (BMS) will be provided by AKAER Group of São José dos Campos. OXIS will be producing the Li-S battery cells at its factory in Juiz de Fora.

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21 COMMENTS

  1. Yawn. Yet another announcement of the latest and greatest “electric airplane.” These have been promoted for years–and with the possible exception of motorgliders, come to naught. We are constantly reminded that “when new battery technology is developed, these things will really WORK!” But the “low hanging fruit” of battery technology has already been done–any improvements to batteries will be incremental–and I don’t see any safe or practical alternatives out there. Flight schools are unlikely to wrestle 50 to 75 pounds of freshly charged batteries into an airplane after each hour of flight.

    Perhaps for occasional “fun flyers”–those of us who fly ultralights or LSAs day-VFR-local–but not for flight training or commercial use, and not for the average Private pilot.

    Electric airplanes are the “flying cars”–promised to be “just around the corner”–since the 1930s.

    How about a poll? “Would you buy an electric airplane–equal in cost to a modern 2 place trainer?”
    * Yes–I would buy one for personal use, if it had a minimum of 2 hour range.
    *Yes, I would buy one for my flight school, if it had a two hour range.
    *No–not unless it had at least a 4 hour range
    *No–not at the present state of the art of batteries and propulsion system.
    *MAYBE–I would consider a hybrid–a fueled engine for longer endurance, with battery propulsion.

    It is unlikely that the cost would be workable for a 2 place airplane for commercial use–too much “futzing” with batteries–but a 4 place personal hybrid might be palatable–the Prius gives great economy at relatively low cost, and allows “virtue signaling”. Follow that successful model from the auto industry.

  2. This is pretty exciting. This is the first electric plane project I’ve seen to leverage Li-S battery technology. Li-S promises theoretical energy densities of at least 5X what Li-Ion can supply. And every month I’m reading about another breakthrough with regard to improving the electrode chemistry to overcome the limits in recharging cycles.

    A 200NM range for an electric trainer is quite adequate and flight schools would very likely be very interested in a trainer that does not require oil changes or mags or spark plugs, or a multitude of the other maintenance nightmares that conventional technology leaves us to deal with. The lower cost of operations coupled with less down time would be well worth it.

    • Daniel:

      Please refer to this Rule, regarding required flight experience for applicants for a Private Pilot certificate:

      61.109;3;ii:
      “One solo cross country flight of 150 nautical miles total distance, with full-stop landings at three points, and one segment of the flight consisting of a straight-line distance of more than 50 nautical miles between the takeoff and landing locations.”

      Next, please refer to this Rule; 91.151 Fuel requirements for flight in VFR conditions:

      (a) No person may begin a flight in an airplane under VFR conditions unless (considering wind and forecast weather conditions) there is enough fuel to fly to the first point of intended landing and, assuming normal cruising speed –
      (1) During the day, to fly after that for at least 30 minutes; or
      (2) At night, to fly after that for at least 45 minutes.

      Please keep in mind that “the first point of intended landing” applies to every flight after a takeoff – NOT to the first stop on a three-leg flight.

      Question:
      Do you still assert that “A 200NM range for an electric trainer is quite adequate?”

    • “And every month I’m reading about another breakthrough with regard to improving the electrode chemistry to overcome the limits in recharging cycles.”

      If you’re into EVs you can indeed find such things every month, there are a lot of hype men to keep you fed. But these speculations date back years. We have been hearing about the “next big thing” and “paradigm shifts” of new battery technology since the late 2000s and none have been commercially viable, but limited to the labs of universities. We’re still using the incrementally improved Li-ion and Li-poly batteries whose basic designs date back to the 90s. Mark my words, electric manned aircraft will not be viable on any more than a very limited niche scale for many years to come. Possibly multiple decades. Battery tech is advancing far too slowly, being at the point of diminishing returns with Lithium based batteries, and the demands of certification for some new ultra high energy density battery type will add additional years to the adoption of it. High density, high discharge rate batteries are already veritable incendiary devices; far more prone to bursting into flames upon being physically or electrically damaged than a fuel tank. You can overcharge one cell in a pack of thousands and wind up with a fire that is difficult if not impossible to extinguish. You can put a dent in a Li-poly in the wrong spot and it becomes an inferno. Fire departments regularly have to let EVs burn themselves out on the side of the road because of how difficult battery fires are to fight. This danger must be mitigated for manned aircraft, and mitigation adds to the already considerable weight of a decently sized battery. As it stands, its so bad that no commercially produced battery packs exist that posses even 10% the energy density of gasoline, most have less than 2% the energy density. Even with the higher efficiency of a brushless motor vs an internal combustion engine, this still means significant weight penalties and far less endurance than is desirable. Furthermore, 200nm of range is not suitable for anything more than the pattern work and local maneuvers of PPL training and local hops (125nm tops with reserve). This aircraft would be of very limited use to flight schools as all cross country flights will have to use a different plane, and charging a battery between students takes hours vs fueling which takes minutes.

      For now, and in the near future, widespread use of electric planes will remain in the realm of model aviation/UAS. People are quite happy with electric RC planes, they are truly better in almost every way than small gasoline models, but it doesn’t scale well unfortunately.

    • What’s exciting is that ONYX developed a 500 W/hr battery available at the end of this year. Well, that was before COVID-19. They are working on 600. That brings Li-S halfway through kerosene’s energy density. There are even more battery chemistries being worked on right now. It’s just like what happened with EVs a decade ago. We’re at the hump now.

      I wish I had a penny for every naysayer saying EV and electric mobility will not work. None the less, it’s good to see a wholistic path including all these technologies.

      Farnborough was interesting this year. We hear from conventional propulsion makers, PW, RR, etc., talking about introducing electricity. They all concluded that electricity is the long haul game. I’d rather hear from these experts 🙂

  3. I just wonder as a retired aircraft engineer and owner of flying school aircraft as well as other aircraft . Question is have they or if so why not Have the designers incorporated the flexible solar panels now available that could with design be incorporated in the upper wing surface or at least in the upper fuselage surface both added to the design strength of the structure, Granted it might only supply 10 or 20% more charge on good sunny days. No one talks about the minimum required which I thought was 45 minutes fumble factor or is that just incorporated in the result. So 2 hours of electric flight is not clear if the 45 minima is included which makes it safe for only 75 minutes. I love the idea of electric flight because it will quickly evolve into personal transport in my opinion. Thanks jr

  4. I believe the “Electro Flyer” at Oshkosh had a prototype some years ago. Haven’t heard anything more.

    I don’t believe total electric will ever work–but a hybrid MAY work in some applications. Several gliders have tried it–electric power for climb–if no thermals develop, you have the ability to try again (they express the ability to climb as “7-9000 feet of climb capability”). Some LSAs have experimented with electric power AND a small charging engine for increased range–even with the extra weight of fuel and small engine, it is less than additional batteries.

    The problem with electric drive using batteries is that it does not “scale” well for very light airplanes.
    I’ve thought about the ability to lift a Prius power train directly into an aircraft like a Baron. The engine, batteries, and fuel weight makes it very close to the two engines, accessories, and fuel of a Baron.

    Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to lift an off-the-shelf hybrid system from a Prius right into an airplane? Think about it
    . Lots of power for takeoff and climb
    . Cruise takes much less power than climb–climb on both engines, cruise electric
    . Good range with the engine recharging batteries.
    . Multi-engine redundancy–if the battery system fails on takeoff or climb, you still have the other
    . The economy of an automobile drive system.
    . Long engine and electric life

    Still think this would be a good subject for a poll–what do pilots REALLY think about the future of electric airplanes? We are constantly being besieged with PR announcement of “the next big thing” in electric airplanes–all of which have come to naught. What do PILOTS REALLY THINK OF ELECTRIC AIRPLANES?


  5. I think that you’d find that 2x Prius power trains would have more weight and much less continuous power than what’s in a Baron.”

    It’s hard to find the specs on a Prius. The curb weight on the latest models is 3040 pounds–all up. The motor weight is listed as “300 pounds” on early ones–as little as “189 pounds on latest ones”. I see several references to “236#”–but that’s an engine with accessories. Let’s go with that one.

    The “transaxle” is about 40#–but you WOULD have to have something to couple the engine to the electric motor, so let’s go with that figure.

    The batteries were easy to find–the newest are 30% lighter than the old–they are 265#.

    There are TWO electric motors (they also have “regenerative braking”). The stators only (the heavy part) are 61.4 pounds. Do we need two of them? Let’s assume so–and call each assembled engine 100 pounds.

    So far, we have 741 pounds.

    By comparison, the Baron IO-520s EACH weigh 406.65 pounds–but that’s without accessories (fuel pumps, vacuum pumps, exhaust.–a total of 813 pounds, or 72 pounds LESS than 2 IO-520 Continentals.

    We’re not done yet. We don’t need two props–save another hundred pounds. We don’t need two engine mounts–save another 50# If we nose-mount it like a Bonanza, we save the weight and drag of the engine nacelles. We don’t need 166 gallons of fuel for the fuel-efficient engine–perhaps half of it, or 498 pounds saved. We don’t need two batteries–we have plenty of electrical power in the big battery already–save 80# No cowl flaps and motors needed.

    This is just “back of the envelope thinking”–it never seems to come out exact, but it IS closer in weight savings than I thought. Balance shouldn’t be a problem–batteries in the nose (the Baron has a 300# baggage capacity as it is today–and the engines can fit either there or in the present nacelles. It gives you “multi-engine redundancy”–safety in case of loss of the piston engine on takeoff or enroute–lots of electrical power–a far cheaper engine than air-cooled aviation engines–better parts pricing–and better than all the attempts to use high-cube car engines for aviation. It CERTAINLY beats all the attempts to put a tiny battery on a tiny airplane, with no endurance, or the “manned drone” multi-rotors.

    I’m NOT a fan of the “manned model electric airplanes” with limited utility. Straight electric power hasn’t worked, even in the much ballyhooed Electric Beaver and Caravan–far less than an hour total endurance. IF there is a future for electric power, I believe it is with hybrids.

  6. Another consideration for electric planes that does not get mentioned too much is the CHARGING INFRASTRUCTURE needed to support practical cross country flying. Even if/when electric planes have the range of comparable gas powered planes, who wants to only fly to a very limited number of airports that have the charging capabilities? Or wait over an hour to get a full charge like the V3 Supercharger on a Tesla? An hour might be speedy considering some other plane may already be at the single charging station!

    https://www.motortrend.com/news/teslas-v3-supercharger-tested/

    I live in the Dayton OH region where two guys invented the airplane, and I can think of only one location that has electric charging outlets for cars. I know, Dayton is not trendy CA, and that is my whole point. It is going to be a LONG time before small airports I can fly my RV-7 to are going to have any ability to charge an electric plane. When I was an Aero Engineering student in the early 80s, the hype was joined wing commercial planes and span-loaders (flying wings with wings so thick they could drive semis straight into the tips). Those haven’t happened either.

  7. I don’t get it. For more than a decade we have seen attempt after attempt at electric aircraft – front page drama then never to be seen again. Why do folks keep pouring money into models and mechanisms that knowingly will never be commercial much less mainstream. One week it is a new rotor designed EV, next week it is a new motor, then another concept aircraft, them a soon to be perfected quantum leap battery. Most seem to gain a bit of new or relearned information but little else.

    Does anyone believe that in ten or fifteen years when a new motor/power pack combination is developed that it will be installed in a mothballed experimental from five or ten or twenty years ago? All the capital, time, resources, and brain cells sitting in someone’s bone pile or collecting dust in some obscure museum are not going to be part of the next big thing in aircraft/power plant design.

    I have often wondered when I see folks out parading or demonstrating how do they afford to do those things instead of working for a living. I guess the same is true in the aircraft world where the society is so rich that there is plenty of money and time to be spent or wasted, not keeping the wolf from the door. Except in my decades of experience in being part of the aviation crowd, it always seemed that there was never enough money or time to do even the important stuff of flying like paying decent salaries, affording expensive repair parts, and premiums for fuel. Where does the money for these aviation curiosities come from? Is there really a sucker born every minute?

  8. This won’t work with our current periodic table.

    Electric motors are excellent; batteries are not and they are unlikely to improve enough for transportation use, perhaps ever.

    Chemistry is a limiter. As is expense safety and environmental impact extracting these rare elements from third world countries using slave labor.

    But at least virtue signalers get to signal.

    Teslas offer acceptable range but are terribly heavy, very expensive with shotty build quality and long charging times and they are the best EVs available now until Mercedes and the Germans decide to take over. So even the best current EV’s are poor vehicles.

    I was replacing coolant lines on my Ducati last night. Ducati’s are the pinnacle of the joys of Internal Combustion. I was thinking if this was an electric motorcycle I would be riding now not wrenching.

    After the repair I took my girlfriend on a 120 mile blast through the desert, at unmentionable speeds listening to the guttural howl of the Desmo Twin on full boil singing through carbon fiber exhaust. I would have been pushing an electric bike home at that point.

    There is NO SUBSTITUE for the joy on internal combustion.

    Period.

  9. Also gasoline is cheap and plentiful and likely to remain so for a very long time. There is not need for electric planes.

    Our money and effort should be spent on improving IC engines. I’d like to see high quality lower priced automotive technology. Mazda SkyActive for example. You can but a SkyActive engine, with AN ENTIRE NICE CAR ATTACHED for the price of an 80 year old technology Lycoming.