UK university to build electric race airplane

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The University of Nottingham in the UK and the Air Race E championship are to jointly develop what they claim will be the world’s first electric aircraft for racing.

The Air Race E championship plans to launch in 2020 and will be similar to Formula 1 pylon air racing, in which eight planes race against each other around a tight 1.5km (1 mile) circuit at speeds of around 400km/h (248mph) close to the ground.

Formula Air Race planes used in Air Race 1 are classified as ‘experimental’ and are designed specifically for racing to a specific race formula.

Engineers at the University of Nottingham are to develop the prototype electric race airplane by retrofitting an electric motor, battery and power electronics system into an existing petrol-power Air Race 1 airplane.

The project is part of the University of Nottingham’s £13m Beacons of Excellence program, which aims to develop ‘field-leading responses to global challenges’, including sustainable travel.

Jeff Zaltman, CEO of Air Race Events, said, “This partnership between Air Race E and the University of Nottingham will 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 Beacons program to help drive change within the industry.”

Richard Glassock, research fellow in hybrid propulsion systems for aircraft at the University of Nottingham, and project lead, said, “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 programs, 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.”

Interested in electric and hybrid aircraft? The Electric & Hybrid Aerospace Technology Symposium takes place on November 8-9 in Cologne, Germany. To find out more and register, go here.

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Ben has worked all of his career as a journalist and now editor, covering almost all aspects of technology, engineering and industry. In the last 16 years he has written on subjects from nuclear submarines and autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies and commercial aviation. Latterly editor of a leading engineering magazine, he brings an eye for a great story and lots of experience to the team.

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