Electric transportation is about more than cars. Trucks and buses are also moving toward electric propulsion. Planes, with their long ranges and high power demands seem to be harder. Where electric power does seem to be making progress in the skies is in helicopters.
An independent engineering company in California this month set the Guinness World Record for the farthest flight for an electric helicopter of 34.5 miles (30 nautical miles). The flight, which started at Los Alamitos Army Airfield, took just over 22 minutes at about 92 mph (80 knots) and an altitude of 800 feet.
The company, Tier 1 Engineering, is working to develop an electrically-powered helicopter for Lung Biotechnology that won’t contribute to air pollution to deliver human organs for transplant.
The helicopter is a converted Robinson R44 helicopter with about 67 kilowatt hours (1,100 pounds) of lithium polymer batteries from Brammo, the electric motorcycle company that was bought by Cummins last year. It uses twin electric motors from electric specialty and race-car engineering company Rinehart Motion Systems, which provides hybrid systems to two Formula 1 teams. Tier 1 didn’t specify the power output.
The Tier 1/Lung Biotechnology helicopter isn’t the first electric chopper to take to the skies. Another, in France, flew for two minutes in 2011.
Workhorse, which is building electric delivery-truck conversions and has a plug-in hybrid pickup in the works, also showed off a two-passenger series-hybrid helicopter in August that looks like a giant drone carrying a seating pod.