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July 26, 2011
By Thomas A. Horne
Slovenian lightplane manufacturer Pipistrel is showing off its monster of an electrically-powered airplane at EAA AirVenture. Pipistrel’s Taurus G4 is a one-off, not-for-production airplane specifically designed to compete in September’s annual CAFE Green Flight Challenge competition in Santa Rosa, Calif. The 3,245-pound, four-seat airplane is powered by a single 200-horsepower electric motor and is capable of “more than 100 mph,” according to Pipistrel engineer Tine Tomazic. The G4’s batteries weigh in at a whopping 1,100 pounds.
Pipistrel is no stranger to electrically-powered airplanes. The company won the CAFÉ Green Flight Challenge in 2007 and 2008, so “we’re confident we’ll have a good chance at winning again,” Tomazic said. More recently, a Pipistrel Taurus single-seat electric airplane won the 100,000-euro prize in the Berblinger Flight Competition at the Aero-Friedrichshafen show in April this year.
The G4’s unusual structure is basically a huge-wingspan Taurus that bears two fuselages and a centrally-mounted engine. The engine is situated on a wing center section that separates the two fuselages. Pipistrel claims that the airplane is the largest, most powerful electric four-seater in the world.
To win the CAFE Green Flight Challenge, Tomazic says the airplane must fly 200 statute miles within two hours and beat the competition in terms of seat-miles (the number of seats flown a given number of miles). “Because the G4 has four seats, competitors must fly at least twice as fast or twice as efficiently in order to win. With our four seats and our speed, we have a real advantage,” a company official said.
AOPA Pilot Editor at Large Tom Horne has worked at AOPA since the early 1980s. He began flying in 1975 and has an airline transport pilot and flight instructor certificates. He’s flown everything from ultralights to Gulfstreams and ferried numerous piston airplanes across the Atlantic.
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