Just a couple of weeks after its maiden flight at the end of May, the e-Genius electric aircraft has now winged its way into the record books - managing to stay aloft for over two hours and maintain an average speed of 100 mph (160 kph). Its University of Stuttgart development team are now looking to improve on that performance, ahead of the 2011 Green Flight Challenge for which it was designed.

After taking off from Mindelheim airfield in Germany just before noon on June 15, pilot and production manager Karl Kaeser and systems engineer Steffen Geinitz climbed to 4,000 feet (1,219 meters). They then traveled some 211 miles (340 km) in two hours, taking in Bad Woerishofen and Thannhausen en route, and then landed with some energy to spare in the 56kWh battery pack of the e-Genius concept electric aircraft.

The aircraft was designed and built by a team of students, researchers and workers at the University of Stuttgart's Institute of Aircraft Design, along with outside specialists, and optimized for solar flight pioneer Eric Raymond to pilot at NASA/CAFE's 2011 Green Flight Challenge which runs from September 25 to October 3. Entries will be tested for speed, endurance and fuel efficiency, with the winner taking a top prize of US$1.3 million.

We're still in the very early days of electric aircraft development, but already we are seeing impressive speed and longevity achievements. Technologies pioneered by such projects will doubtless help towards reducing the negative environmental impact of today's air industry.

In related news, pilot Hugues Duval broke his own electric plane speed record in the twin electric motor E-cristaline MC15E Cri-Cri (not to be confused with the Green Cri developed by EADS) at the Paris Air Show recently, clocking up a swift 283 kph (175.8 mph).

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