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Siemens motor sets new speed records

330LE with Siemens motor tows glider. Copyright: Jean-Marie Urlacher

Ultralight motor sets two new records, including glider aerotow

Engineering giant Siemens has reported that an Extra 330LE aerobatic plane, fitted with the company’s ultralight motor, has once again set new records.

Following a record for fastest climb set in November, the aircraft has now managed to set new precedents for speed.

At March 23 trials at the Dinslaken Schwarze Heide airfield in Germany, the aircraft reached a top speed of around 337.50 km/h over a distance of 3 km. The speed achieved by pilot Walter Extra was 13.48 km/h faster than the previous record, set by US pilot William M. Yates in 2013. The World Air Sports Federation (FAI) certified the achievement in the category of “Electric airplanes with a take-off weight less than 1,000 kilograms.”

Yates set his record in an “Electric Long-ESA” (so-called for its “Electric Speed & Altitude”), a craft outfitted with a 450-volt, 80 amp-hour battery pack.

Not content, the modified 330LE also set a record in the category “above 1,000 kilograms,” in a slightly modified configuration with an overall weight exceeding one metric tonne.

The following day, the Extra 330LE also became the world’s first electric aircraft to tow a glider into the sky. The nearly silent aerotow, again piloted by Extra, took a LS8-neo glider up to a height of 600 meters in 76 seconds.

“This aerotow provides further highly visible evidence of our record-setting motor’s performance capabilities,” said Frank Anton, head of eAircraft at the Siemens venture capital unit next47. “Just six such propulsion units would be sufficient to power a typical 19-seat hybrid-electric airplane.”

Weighing just 50 kg, these motors are capable of supplying a constant electric output of 260 kilowatts – a power-to-weight ratio of 5.2 kW/kg. Six such plants would weigh around 300kg. By contrast, the 19-seater Beechcraft 1900 uses two Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-65B turboprop, each weighing 225 kg, which offer 820 kW of output – a ratio of 3.6 kW/kg.

While Siemens’ claim that its innovation is up to five times more powerful than comparable propulsion systems is lofty, the motor is certainly on the way.

Although the 1-tonne Extra 330LE serves as the flying test bed for the propulsion system, there are no plans for series production of the electric plane.

Siemens will however contribute this technology to its joint project with Airbus. Because its electric drives are scalable, the two companies intend to develop larger hybrid electric regional aircraft based on the motor. “By 2030, we expect to see the first electric-powered planes carrying up to 100 passengers with a range of around 1,000 km,” he added.


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