Electric Planes Fly the Eco-Friendly Skies
Calen Gologan, far left.
CREDIT: Amy Keiter, SolarWord
The word "Oshkosh" means the same thing to pilots that "Sturgis" means to bikers or "San Diego" means to comic book fans. It's the world's most important air show, and this year, Calen Gologan, president of PC-Aero, may have the most interesting plane at the festival.
Gologan's plane, the Elektra One, flies using only electrical power, and charges its batteries in a solar powered hanger. Even the wings of the plane feature solar panels, which provide the juice needed for a little extra range. Unlike any other plane at the show, or any other plane its size in the world; the Elektra One is totally emissions neutral.
Taking a minute out from the hectic Oshkosh schedule, Gologan sat down with InnovationNewsDaily to discuss the future of electric planes, the importance of FAA regulations to aerospace innovation and the future of zero-emissions flights.
InnovationNewsDaily: What inspired you to develop a zero-emissions plane?
Calen Gologan: We have a duty in this new energy revolution. The duty is to use alternative energy. And we have an interest in making money. I think with this aircraft we can solve both problems.
InnovationNewsDaily: The public remains slow in adopting electric and hybrid ground vehicles . How are planes different?
Gologan: For cars, there is not a civil authority for the manufacturing. They only need to fit a broad set of regulations. For aircraft, there's a very, very complex set regulations. The regulations are a guarantee for pilots. If a plane has passed the regulations, pilots know it's ok to fly.
InnovationNewsDaily: How soon until all planes run on electric energy?
Gologan: We can say that this the Elektra One is a bridge to the future of commercial applications. This proves what's good for the next generation. I suppose the next generation will be larger, with two engines, but we have to wait a little.
We need to wait on the batteries . We need at this moment to have regulation, and at the same time, the batteries will make the progress. The regulation will guide us. The FAA is organizing a panel at OshKosh about this, so something is moving in this direction.
Now we have just started. In four to six years, we will have a reliable electric engine. And I suppose within 20-30 years we'll have a small electric airliner that will replace a short range airliner. We cannot expect sudden changes.
InnovationNewsDaily: How is the Elektra One different from regular planes?
Gologan: It's a classic airplane, but there's an important thing: electric power can only be used in two conditions. The plane must be very light, and the plane must have very high end aerodynamics. Our aircraft, without batteries, only weighs 220 pounds (100 kilograms).
InnovationNewsDaily: What's the biggest revolution going on in aircraft technology right now?
Gologan: The most important revolution will be this electric power. But when I think of aircraft, there are two systems. There are electric systems, and there is the electric engine. They are different, but both are important.
It's very important for all aircraft to replace their hydraulic systems with electric systems. The electric systems are much more efficient, much less expensive to maintain. They must change first, and the last change will be the electric engine.