The world’s first electric race plane was unveiled on day one at the Dubai Airshow, showcasing custom modified technology built by one of the teams set to take part in the inaugural Air Race E event in 2020.
“This is a pivotal moment not only for Air Race E, but for the aviation industry as a whole,” said Jeff Zaltman, Air Race E CEO.
“Our aim by establishing an electric racing series is to develop a unifying platform for the development of cleaner, faster, and more technologically advanced electric aircraft. The racing series will provide a testbed for innovation and accelerate the journey towards electric commercial travel. We’ve now shown it is possible and are on track to again create history when planes like the one on display at the Dubai Airshow take to the skies for the race next year.”
According to race organizers, the E-Racer Model is the first example of an electric race plane, built by Team Condor in their Yorkshire-based workshop in the North of England using a highly-modified Cassutt aircraft with a rich history in formula air racing dating back to 1979.
The custom Cassutt racer, named White Lightning, was once a regular on the formula one racing circuit in Europe throughout the 1980s and 1990s, with owner and pilot Andrew Chadwick earning a number of podium finishes to add to White Lightning’s racing pedigree. Chadwick donated the aircraft to Team Condor to compete in the upcoming Air Race E series.
Team Condor leader Martyn Wiseman and his crew have spent the past months converting White Lightning into a fully-electric racing machine, using a Contra Electric twin motor and contra-rotating propeller powertrain.
The customized electric motor will enable the plane to race at speeds of around 300 mph, according to race officials.
During the races, the combined max continuous power will be set at 150kW, according to the electric formula. Over 100kg worth of lithium batteries installed under the fuselage of the plane will provide power for five minutes of high intensity racing and around 10 minutes of reserve flying at reduced power.
The E-Racer model that was on display at the Dubai Airshow is one of two electric race planes nearest to completion. The other is being built at the University of Nottingham’s Aerospace Technology Centre in the UK as part of its Propulsion Futures Beacons of Excellence research program. Project lead Richard Glassock, a University of Nottingham engineering fellow, has also been instrumental in the development of White Lightning and expects to have his model in the air by early next year.
Air Race E will be a series of head-to-head international air races, showcasing the skills, expertise, and ingenuity of the best pilots and engineers from around the world. Unlike similar racing events which operate on a time trial basis, Air Race E events will see eight planes fly simultaneously around a tight 5km circuit at just 10m above the ground and at speeds of up to 450kph — faster than any land-based motorsport.
Air Race E will announce the first eight teams that will compete in the inaugural race on Nov. 19, 2019. The field includes strong representation across Europe and North America, with team leaders coming from diverse backgrounds in aerobatics, manufacturing, air racing, the military, and robotics, organizers note.
The locations of the races are still being finalized, organizers add.