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Work begins on world’s first electric race aeroplane

Air Race E and the University of Nottingham will retrofit a petrol-powered Air Race 1

Development of the first electric race aeroplane has taken a major leap forward due to an innovative partnership announced between the University of Nottingham and Air Race E this week.

A new 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 aeroplane will help shape the model and rules for Air Race E, which is set to launch its inaugural race in 2020.

The university is investing £13 million 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.

CEO of Air Race Events Jeff Zaltman commented: “This is a ground-breaking partnership between Air Race E and the University of Nottingham which will undoubtedly have a huge impact across the electric aviation industry.

“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.”

Research fellow in hybrid propulsion systems for aircraft and project lead Richard Glassock added: “Air Race E is set on making the electric aviation industry move faster and we are very excited to be working alongside them to make it happen.

“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 electric aeroplanes racing directly against each other on a very tight circuit just above the ground and at speeds faster than any land-based motorsport. Formula Air Race planes, classified as ‘experimental’, are the only aeroplanes in the world designed specifically for racing and built to a specific race formula.

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. Electric aviation is one of the fastest developing technological areas and is seen as the third generation of aviation.

Air Race E 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. Eight aeroplanes race directly against each other at speeds of over 400 kmph around a tight circuit just 1.5 km end-to-end.

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