First Electric Cars now an Electric Helicopter

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 1st, 2013

Week in Review

The federal government is doing everything it can to stimulate electric car sales.  Because they’re so green.  But despite huge government subsidies for both manufacturers and buyers people just aren’t buying them.  In large part because of their limited range.  Keeping away potential buyers.  And filling electric car owners with range anxiety.  That dread that fills them when they start worrying whether they have enough battery charge to get home.  And getting stranded a long way from home.  Of course, this range anxiety could be worse (see 18-rotor electric helicopter makes maiden flight by Tim Hornyak posted 11/25/2013 on CNET).

The VC200, however, has a proper cockpit for two, and is described as a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) manned aircraft that doesn’t quite fit into any traditional category of flying machine.

It has 18 zero-emission, battery-powered electric motors for propulsion instead of the traditional combustion engines of helicopters. A frame and branching supports for rotors are made of carbon fiber help keep the weight down.

E-volo says the Volocopter VC200 can offer passengers a quiet, smooth, green ride. The vehicle is also easy to fly by joystick, and will have low operating and maintenance costs.

The VC200 flew to a height of some 70 feet during its test flights, which were recorded in the video below, which is pretty noisy but that may be due to the camera position.

It can fly for about 20 minutes with current battery technology, but E-volo hopes that will improve to allow for flights of an hour or more.

Really?  An electric helicopter?  It’s bad enough having your electric car coast to a stop on the road after your battery dies.  But to fall out of the sky?

Before a commercial jetliner flies it calculates how much fuel they need to get them to their destination.  To get them to an alternate destination in case something prevents them from getting to their primary destination.  And a reserve amount of fuel.  For the unexpected.  They are very careful about this because a plane cannot coast to a stop on a road.  If they run out of fuel they tend to fall out of the sky.  So the FAA is pretty strict on fuel requirements.  Can you imagine them certifying an electric helicopter that can carry only one battery charge?  That has to power the craft regardless of the weight of the air craft?

On the one hand pushing the bounds of technology is a good thing.  We can develop better batteries to use in our mobile devices and tablet computers.  But electric cars and electric flight?  The very design requires solving a paradox.  To get greater range we need more/bigger batteries.  But more/bigger batteries means greater weight.  And greater weight means reduced range.  That is, the very thing that increases range also reduces range.  The current technology just isn’t good enough to give us electric cars or electric flight at this time.  And any tax dollars that go to subsidize it is tax money poorly spent.

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