If you wade through the 1,600+ photos on Flickr taken last week during the annual EAA AirVenture Fly-in at Wittman Airport in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, you won't find a single photograph of an electric airplane. There are warbirds galore, vintage biplanes, stunt aircraft and even the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner, but nary an image of the Elektra One, the Taurus G4, the Sonex's all-electric Waix. Clearly the photographers attending this year's event are still pretty much focused on the past, rather than the future, but that didn't preclude NASA's Mark Moore from telling EV World that interest in electric flight is starting to build within the EAA and the aviation community, in general.
Moore -- no relation -- came to EV World's attention in 2010 when NASA released a computer animation of a design he developed called the Puffin. It is an all-electric VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) concept that, according to him, takes advantages of the strengths of electric drive, huge amounts of torque for brief periods of time; in the case of the Puffin, pictured below, during initial ascent when lift from its stubby wings is virtually nil.
In this 27-minute interview, the 27-year NASA veteran and advanced concept aircraft designer, talks about the electrification of flight and the challenges still remaining to be solved: primarily the energy density issue, or simply, better batteries. While progress still needs to be made here, the other parts of the system: motors, controllers, chargers; have seen significant advances in the last few years. Enough so that aircraft are being developed that are ready to take on NASA's and the CAFE Foundation's Green Flight Challenge, which requires entrants to "fly 200 miles (320 km) in under 2 hours, and doing it at less than 1-US-gallon (3.8 L) of gasoline per occupant," according to the event's Wikipedia entry. The competition will be held in Santa Rosa, California in late September.
To listen to this telephone interview in its entirety, use either of the two MP3 players to the right, or download the 6.1MB file to your computer for playback on your favorite MP3 device.
NASA Puffin Electric VTOL Concept designed by Mark Moore.