Work on world’s first electric race airplane begins

Written by: Tom Austin-Morgan | Published:
Jeff Zaltman, CEO of Air Race Events and Richard Glassock, research fellow in hybrid propulsion systems for aircraft, University of Nottingham

The University of Nottingham has partnered with Air Race E to develop the first electric race airplane. An integrated ‘plug and play’ electric motor, battery and power electronics system will be designed and retrofitted into an existing petrol-powered Air Race 1 plane in workshops at the University.

The prototype race airplane will help shape the model and rules for Air Race E, the world’s first all-electric airplane racing series, which is set to launch in 2020.

The University is investing £13m in the Beacons of Excellence programme which is aimed at championing field-leading responses to global challenges, including sustainable travel.

With transport on the vanguard of a green revolution the two parties will drive the discovery and translation of new materials, components and technologies in order to change the game within electrified propulsion.

Jeff Zaltman, CEO of Air Race Events, commented: “Since the announcement of the Air Race E series we have been overwhelmed by the response of innovators and leaders within the aviation sector and we are delighted to be working with the pioneering University of Nottingham Beacon Programme to help drive change within the industry.”

Richard Glassock, research fellow in hybrid propulsion systems for aircraft, and project lead, added: “Future transport platforms will require electrical machines and power conversion and transmission solutions which can deliver a step-change in power density, efficiency and reliability. Through strategic investment in facilities, talent and research programmes, and collaboration with academic and industrial partners, the University of Nottingham is at the forefront of this exciting revolution in aerospace, marine and automotive transport.”

Air Race E will see eight electric airplanes racing directly against each other at speeds of up to 400kmph on a tight 1.5km circuit just above the ground. It will be a similar format to the sport known as ‘formula one pylon air racing’ where the world’s best race pilots compete simultaneously to be the first one to cross the finish line. Formula Air Race planes, classified as ‘experimental’, are the only airplanes in the world designed specifically for racing and built to a specific race formula.

According to the partners, the demand for speed, performance and power management under the rigors of a competitive race environment provide the perfect conditions for the development and promotion of cleaner, faster and more technologically advanced electric motors.

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