Electric aircraft gets energy boost from detachable motorcycle

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Designs for an electric aircraft that gets an energy boost from a detachable motorcycle have been unveiled in Poland.

Electric aircraft
Hybrid Electric Intermodal Aircraft Auxiliary Power Unit

The futuristic designs from Nottingham University research fellow Richard Glassock envisage a detachable motorcycle that acts as an additional power source for an electric aircraft, extending the length of time it can fly.

Glassock’s RExLite and RExMoto have been unveiled today at the International Conference on Innovation in European Aeronautics Research in Warsaw.

All-electric aircraft offer reductions in running costs plus lower CO2, NOx emissions and noise levels but flight time on batteries is limited. Consequently, the provision of sufficient energy for realistic flight utility remains problematic.

According to Nottingham University, Glassock’s designs use conventionally fuelled, combustion engine driven, electrical generators to provide energy at peak efficiency with minimum emissions, effectively converting an all-electric aircraft to a hybrid electric aircraft.

The designs could appeal to private aircraft owners who would be able to fly their planes for longer, reducing emissions and fuel costs, and then use the detachable motorcycle to continue their journey after landing.

In a statement, Glassock, a specialist in hybrid propulsion systems for aircraft at the Institute for Aerospace Technology (IAT) said: “As aircraft of the future adopt more electrical systems, we need engineering solutions to overcome current limitations. With RexLite and RExMoto, leisure craft will be able to fly much further for much longer, offering pilots and owners of private two-seater or four-seater aircraft real benefits when commuting.

“The benefits also extend to pilot training as more electric aircraft will lower running costs, fuel burn and achieve an appreciable reduction in noise levels — most notably at suburban airports. As airports are gradually hemmed in by the suburban sprawl, the use of the hybrid range extenders may make evening and night training flights of electric aircraft more acceptable.”

RExLite is said to be a self-contained 40kW electrical generation power unit that provides up to three hours extra endurance through conventional combustion of hydrocarbon fuel. Weighing around 60kg, RExLite resembles a ‘plug and play’ modular power pack. Equipped with retractable jockey wheels, it is easy to manoeuvre and comes with a powered jack so it can be positioned under a fuselage or wing.

RExLite can increase the range and endurance of small two-seater all-electric aircraft, placing them on a par with conventional combustion engine aircraft in cross-country range. The extra endurance and redundancy will allow comparable flight times and can eliminate the need to recharge the battery. As it is light and compact, multiple units of RExLite can be carried on board larger aircraft.

RExMoto is a modular 50kW electrical generation power unit that can be fitted to electric aircraft and provides two to three hours extra endurance through conventional combustion of hydrocarbon fuel.

Designed as a conventional scooter or motorcycle, RExMoto can take to the road, functioning as a mode of transport to and from the airport. The engine, generator, chassis and drive structure are claimed to have a novel layout and the whole unit weighs no more than 125kg. Retractable wheels ensure that RExMoto can fit beneath the aircraft’s fuselage or under a wing while minimising drag in flight mode.