Saturday, May 10, 2008

More About Electric Aircraft Symposium

Not long after posting about the Electric Aircraft Symposium, I ran across an interesting blog post about it: Flying with Pipistrel Taurus. The Pipistrel Viper won last year's Personal Air Vehicle Centennial Challenge. Here's an excerpt:

Hook that system up to a fuel cell or battery charged by wind or solar power, and the filthy personal airplane becomes the greenest form of transportation—maybe even beating any future winner of the $10-million dollar, 100-mile-per-gallon Automotive X-Prize.

Many of those planes have been homebuilt models, part of a phenomenon that took off in the 1970s, when hobbyists began buying kits designed by aviation engineers such as Burt Rutan. In 2004, Rutan’s team won the $10 million Ansari X-Prize for building the first civilian craft to take passengers into space twice within two weeks.

Seeley believes that a cash prize can drive development of clean aircraft just as it did for spacecraft and may soon do for super-efficient automobiles. The challenge is to get a trifecta: 100 miles, at 100 miles per hour and the energy equivalent of 100 miles per gallon of gasoline, in a plane that is not only efficient but also comfortable and easy to operate.

The search is now on for a funder. At the meeting, Seeley and other speakers mentioned Google as a possibility. More than wishful thinking, it was a not-so-subtle hint to the mega-corporation’s co-founder, Larry Page, who sat a few feet from the speaker’s podium. While Page hasn’t pledged any money yet, his interest is strong. “He’s been at every event we’ve had,” said Anne Seeley. (Google has already funded a $30-million Lunar X-Prize for the first team to send a robotic spacecraft to the moon.)