New Electric Trainer from Pipistrel Takes Flight

WATTsUP aims to cut flight-training costs.

Pipistrel WATTsUP

Pipistrel WATTsUP

Pipistrel WATTsUP

During the past few years, electricity has started to prove itself as a viable mode of aircraft propulsion, with several versions showing increasing range and capability. However, no company has yet to introduce a practical electric airplane to the commercial market. Earlier this year Airbus flew the all-electric E-Fan and announced its intent to bring two- and four-seat versions of the proof-of-concept to market in 2017. But Slovenian light airplane maker Pipistrel, which has brought several successful light sport aircraft models to the market and is in the process of certifying a four-seat airplane called the Panthera, may just beat Airbus to the punch.

The company's new WATTsUP, a two-seat airplane design targeted for flight training, took flight last week, and Pipistrel hopes to deliver it to customers as soon as next year. The Siemens AG motor that powers WATTsUP weighs just over 30 pounds and produces 85kW. Pipistrel claims the motor produces more power than a Rotax 912 and can be fully charged in about one hour thanks to the company's battery management technology. The airplane is expected to be capable of flying for about one hour with a 30-minute reserve and it is most efficient in the pattern where as much as 13 percent of the energy is recuperated during each approach, Pipistrel said.

Because of its efficiency and low cost of operation, Pipistrel's CEO Ivo Boscarol said WATTsUP could reduce the cost of initial flight training by as much as 70 percent. The targeted price for the new airplane is less than 100,000 EUR, currently about $132,000. The WATTsUP proof-of-concept will be unveiled at the ULM Blois 2014 airshow in France, set to take place August 30 and 31.

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