An electric powered aircraft demonstrator has taken to the air for the first time with a 20-minute flight from Mindelheim, Germany. Intended for entry in the NASA funded CAFE 2011 Green Flight Challenge, the eGenius concept was designed by a team from the University of Stuttgart's Institute of Aircraft Design, with funding from Airbus, whose Future Projects teams will analyze data collected during the maiden flight.
With a configuration similar to a touring motor glider, the eGenius boasts a wingspan of 16.9 m (55.4 ft) and hull length of 8.1 m (26.6 ft). With its cockpit width of 1.1 m (3.6 ft), the aircraft is wide enough to accommodate two seats in a side-by-side configuration.
The aircraft's single tail-mounted propeller is driven by an electric motor producing a maximum of 60 kW at 2,000 rpm. With a minimum takeoff weight of 850 kg (1,874 lb) and carrying two passengers of less than 180 kg (397 lb) combined, the eGenius can travel at cruising speeds of up to 235 km/h (146 mph) for up to 400 km (248.5 miles).
Test pilot Steffen Gemsa piloted the eGenius on its successful 20-minute maiden flight on May 26, which was followed on May 29 with a longer two hour 36 minute flight piloted by Soeren Pederson.
The era of light and ultralight aircraft electric aircraft has well and truly begun, but Airbus's interest and funding of the eGenius concept, as well as its trials on biofuels, indicates that the commercial aircraft industry, which is one of the biggest greenhouse gas polluters on the planet, is beginning to look seriously at ways to reduce its environmental impact.