First Electric Aircraft To Enter Serial Production Takes Flight, Buy Yours Now

2 weeks ago by Mark Kane 32

Slovenia-based Pipistrel has announced series production of the Alpha Electro electric aircraft. The first serially-built unit took its first flight earlier this month.

Pipistrel Alpha Electro

The two-seater is designed for training of new pilots. The 21 kWh battery enables 60 minute lessons (plus a reserve). The electric motor is just 50 kW, but it seems powerful enough for max take off weight (MTOW) of 550 kg (1212 lb). Empty weight is 350 kg.

In Australia, the first customer is Electro.Aero, who says that the Alpha Electro is not only quieter and smoother for learning, but will help lower the cost of becoming a pilot (up to 70% according to Pipistrel).

“On 2. January 2018 the first serially-built Pipistrel Alpha Electro took flight in Australia. The aircraft, which received a Special Certificate of Airworthiness from Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) in October 2017, took off from Perth’s Jandakot Airport and conducted two circuits around Jandakot (the 5th busiest airport in the southern hemisphere with more than 375,000 movements last year). It then went on to complete another seven hours of flying over the following two days before being handed over to Electro.Aero, the aircraft’s operator.

The Alpha Electro can be registered in Australia as either a recreational aircraft or with CASA. In both cases it can be used for training, even to obtain PPL. The Pipistrel Alpha Electro is the first electric aircraft that offers the possibility of PPL training.

The aircraft was sold and all the paperwork done by our Australian distributor, X-Air Australia and its representative, Mr. Michael Coates. The new owner of the aircraft, Perth-based company Electro.Aero, stated on their Facebook page that they were satisfied with the new aircraft.

Mr. Richard Charlton, the finance director of Electro.Aero said in his statement for Australian Aviation that it was a smooth first flight. “It was very much without drama. We were just in the pattern behind a normal aeroplane and the control tower was very excited. They knew all about what was happening.”
Charlton said the aircraft was much quieter and cheaper to operate than equivalent-sized aircraft, powered by piston engines.“The main issue with petrol is the maintenance costs of what is a more complex engine,” Charlton said. “The electric engine is really simple. It has one moving part, it’s a very small piece of equipment and it is a solid-state motor.”
model Alpha Electro
electric motor
power 50+ KW at 2100 – 2400 rpm
PROPELLER Ground adjustable three-blade 1,65 m diameter propeller
wing span 34,4 ft (10,5 m)
length 21.33 ft (6.5 m)
height 6.07 ft (2.05 m)
wing area 102.4 sqft (9.51 m2)
rudder area 11.8 sq.ft (1.1 m2)
horizontal tail area 11.6 sq.ft (1.08 m2)
aspect ratio 11,3
positive flaps 0°, 15°, 25°
center of gravity 20% – 38% MAC
empty weight (with batteries) 350 kg
max take off weight (MTOW) 550 kg (1212 lb)
Payload 200 kg
PERFORMANCES DATA PUBLISHED FOR MTOW 1,212 lbs (550 kg) All speeds in Knots
stall with flaps 42 KCAS
stall without flaps 45 KCAS
max. speed with flaps down 70 KIAS
maneouvring speed 86 KIAS
best climb speed 65 kts
max climb rate 1,220 fpm
best glide ratio speed 64 KIAS
best glide 15:1
take off run MTOW 492 feet (150 m)
take off over 50′ obstacle MTOW 885 feet (270 m)
45°-45° roll time 2.6 sec
endurance up to 60 min (+ reserve)
max load factor permitted (x1,8) +4g  -2g
design safety factors & tested minimum 1.875

Pipistrel Alpha Electro

Pipistrel Alpha Electro

Pipistrel Alpha Electro and Tesla Model S

Pipistrel Alpha Electro production

32 responses to "First Electric Aircraft To Enter Serial Production Takes Flight, Buy Yours Now"

  1. VazzedUp says:

    So range is around 80-100miles?

    1. mhpr262 says:

      Not bad for a 21kwh battery, of which most likely only 15kwh or so will get used for that range. The average speed is also much higher than that of a car.

    2. Dav8or says:

      Yes. This is no cross country machine. It really has one mission and one mission only. To train students how to take off and land. This a huge part of pilot training and this plane will help reduce the costs of this part of the PPL. However, you can not do all of the training required for the PPL in the US in this plane. It just doesn’t have the endurance to do it. Students will still have to use a ICE powered plane to complete their training and get the PPL.

      It is a first step in a direction that I am all too excited about. I can’t wait for bigger better electric airplanes!!

      1. Mat says:

        +1. As well, the batteries are swapped, one on the ground charging, the other flying. Upgrading with new battery tech as it comes along is therefore a breeze.

        1. VazzedUp says:

          If you converted this to a single seater, you’d be able to double the range by taking up the passenger payload weight with batteries. At 200wh/kg you’d get another 20kWh or 60mins/100miles.
          I expect bigger planes to follow very soon.

          1. I wonder if Pipistrel could be convinced to have a simple post sale mod that allows for the extra seat to be remobed, and a second 100 Kg Battery installed, for Solo Cross Country training?

          2. Dan says:

            A single seater is not useful for training.

      2. jimjfox says:

        4 seater available- what is FAR 23 certification?

        1. Gazz says:

          Federal Air Regulations for small fixed wing aircraft. It means it’s legal to build.

        2. zzzzzzzzzz says:

          Until recently electric propulsion was not defined as possible option in FAR (Federal Aviation Regulations).

          So Pipistrel was not able to import it to the US for trainer use, just as experimental aircraft. New FAR part 23 rewrite changes it.

      3. Easy first step would be to have extra chargers set up at off base airports! Then Cross Country Training could be done with the plane, as it is, with no mods!

    3. scott franco says:

      The FAA requirement for range is the destination +30 minutes. Most pilots have a personal minimum of 45-60 minutes.

      That means this airplane goes nowhere, safely. Its for pattern training at the local airport.

      1. South Waves says:

        “The FAA requirement for range is the destination +30 minutes. Most pilots have a personal minimum of 45-60 minutes”.
        You do understand that when you train take off and landing (great part of the first 45 hours of training) your “destination” airport is the same as “origin” don’t you?. Also when you train other basic manoubres you’re allways prerty close to your base airport because it’s a Visual Reference Flight. The only part of the training where you won’t be able to use this plane is navigation.

    4. Mick says:

      It looks to have room for about 2kW of solar. I can imagine that to be a future option. Might as well as that’s not insignificant.

  2. VS says:

    And the first of several charging stations for private boats is now beeing installed in Norway.
    Sweden will follow suit.

  3. Chris Stork says:

    Now we just need hovering Superchargers… 😛


    1. james says:

      Blimps with superchargers…

  4. KM says:

    I watched a programme which showed fertilising steep slopes by planes in NZ. Electric plane would be great for such jobs.

    1. South Waves says:

      +1 fire after an accident kills a lot of agro pilots

  5. VazzedUp says:

    Get one for the price of a fully equipped Tesla ($129,000);

  6. Joop says:

    Seek VLOT insteed, especially lilium!!!!!

  7. Joop says:


    1. ItsNotAboutTheMoney says:

      Other companies are trying to do more ambitious stuff, and that’s great, but this is a product that is doing something _now_ that is very useful.

      Pilot training is very expensive, so if this can both electrify some flights while also lowering cost, that is also really great.

  8. J P DeCaen says:

    It’s better in every way to an ICE plane except range. But as batteries get better through r and d for the profitable road vehicle market, aero batteries should be close behind. The similar Chinese RX-1E has 2 hours endurance but I’m not sure if that includes reserve.

  9. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

    Good luck to Pipistrel!

    Seems strange to see a high-tech exterior married to a low-tech cockpit, one with analog dials, switches and knobs everywhere.

    Is that just the reality of 21st century manufacturing in Eastern Europe? Or is it that for training purposes, they want as much analog equipment as possible for training purposes, so new pilots can handle older aircraft when needed?

    I remember when I was in high school (I’m really dating myself here) our typing teacher told us we were being trained on manual typewriters, because switching from a manual to an electric typewriter was easy, whereas going the other direction was difficult. She was certainly correct about that; the few times I had to use a manual typewriter, I was quite glad I had been trained on that in the class.

    1. Gary says:

      Normally small-aircraft manufacturers offer several different avionics options, and I would bet that Pipistrel offers a glass cockpit for this model as well. Some pilots prefer “steam gauges” because you can tell you airspeed or climb rate by seeing the position of the needle out of the corner of your eye rather than reading it off a display.

    2. Dan says:

      You should talk to someone who does HCI for a living. Aircraft have much stricter usability requirements than a Tesla. You’ll never see switches and dials go away in a cockpit. Humans evolved by learning to pry termites out of a mound with a blade of grass and using our opposable thumbs. The tactile feedback from those switches you see is far superior to the single big touchscreen look.

      1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

        Not everything is about Tesla!

        I wasn’t suggesting all the hardware switches and knobs should be eliminated in favor of touchscreen controls. A “glass cockpit” still has knobs, but there aren’t nearly as many toggle switches, and some of the analog dials are replaced with electronic display screens.

        More info here: “15 Advantages Of Flying A Glass Cockpit”

  10. Peter says:

    Can someone calculate the Wh/mi? I calculate about 300 Wh/mi, assuming 70 knots speed for 1 hour. That’s about what a Model S gets. So this thing flies as efficiently as Model S drives? Or is my calculation way off?

    1. Per “The 21 kWh battery enables 60 minute lessons (plus a reserve)”, we have 1 unknown to start off with: how long is the reserve & @ what power setting?

      For a Cessna 152, reserve planning is 45 minutes but it seems to not be clear about that in this case! So, lets try 2 cases: 1 Hr + 45 Minutes (1.75 Hours), & a minimum case of 1 Hr + 15 Minutes Reserve (1.25 Hours)!

      At 1.75 Hours, that = 12,000 Wh or 12 kWh used per Hour. At 1.25 Hours, that = 16,800 Wh or 16.8 kWh used per Hour.

      For Max Cruise Speed, I will take 50% of Maneuvering Speed (86 Kts) + VNE (Never Exceed Speed), (135 Kts) = 0.5 x 221 Kts = 110.5 Kts for Estimated Max Cruise Speed.

      However, since Maneuvering Speed is 86 Kts, I will assume Normal Cruise Speed of 95-100 Kts.

      So, at 100 Kts (115 Statute Mph) that = from 120 to 168 Wh per Nautical Mile (138 – 193 Wh per Statute Mile).

      However, Climb Power tyically uses much more Energy, and at a 1200+ FPM (Feet Per Minute) climb rate, 3 to 5 minutes climb should put you in a good 3,500 Feet to 6,000 Feet Above Ground: lots of room for Air Work. Note** this planes Climb Performance is nearl double the 660-700 FPM of most ICE training plans! So, fo this Electric plane, less Energy is wasted in getting to Working Altitude!

      Then it is the time to travel to the practice area before beginning General Handling Training.

      In the end, it would seem that 140 to 200 Wh per Mile Flown in still air, could be a reasonable value, as a guess!

  11. K A Cheah says:


    1. ItsNotAboutTheMoney says:

      My eyes! My eyes!

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