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Volta Volaré Is an Electric Plane with a Backup Gas Engine
“Range anxiety” is an emotion that’s common to people who own electric cars. It’s a term that describes the fear that EVs won’t have a strong enough charge to get you to your destination or back home before the battery runs out. But if running out of juice on the road freaks you out, try getting in the cockpit of an electric airplane! Range anxiety has been a major hangup for electric airplane makers, but Volta Volaré, a Portland, Oregon-based company, has overcome those fears by producing a hybrid electric airplane that, similar to the Chevy Volt, runs on a hybrid powertrain with batteries and a backup gasoline engine.
Volta Volaré’s prototype GT4 airplane runs on an electric battery that allows it take off, ascend, and cruise 300 miles. After the battery runs out, it can switch over to a 1.5-liter gas engine that will keep it flying for another 700 miles. According to Popular Science, when power supply drops to 25 percent, the gas engine kicks in and generates electricity that recharges the battery. But using the gas engine will cost you a lot more than running entirely on electricity. According to Volta Volaré, one 200-mile electric-powered flight would consume about $20 of electricity, while a similar gasoline-powered flight would cost about $80.
Another factor that has prevented electric airplanes from taking off is the weight of batteries — until now, they’ve been too heavy for small aircrafts. But Volta Volaré founder and CEO Paul Peterson recently told Popular Science that in the past several years, off-the-shelf electric-car batteries and motors have become light and powerful enough to make electric flight viable. The GT4’s electric motor is powered by a 900-pound lithium-polymer battery array that contains 236 individual cells that can be moved around to balance the craft’s center of gravity. The company plans to begin testing the four-seater later this spring.
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