The new all-electric Cessna 172 Bye Energy recently announced is more than a proof-of-concept. The company intends to market the aircraft to flight training providers. According to a statement to AVweb, the company wants to “revolutionize the Part 23 training market,” and considering the unique characteristics of this aircraft, there are very few obstacles to prevent their success.
Unlike Light Sport Aircraft, which do not meet some of the requirements of certain flight training providers, Bye Energy is focusing on meeting the needs of traditional flight training providers who would ordinarily purchase a run-of-the-mill Cessna 172. According the company president George Bye, the aircraft is “ideal for training,” and they want the aircraft to be “the point of entry for new pilots.”
In contrast to a four-place, stock Cessna 172, Bye Energy’s aircraft will be a two-place. It will offer two hours of endurance generated by battery and solar power, wing-tip-mounted devices designed to reclaim power from wing tip vortices and, much like regenerative braking on popular hybrid cars, excess power generated by the propeller during descents.
Bye Energy chose the Cessna 172 as a platform for their new technologies, because of it’s wide-spread use world-wide. With over 10,000 having been produced since the 1950s, nearly every pilot on the planet has come across a Cessna 172 at some point in their training. The company has developed a laundry list of new technologies that convert the exceptionally popular aircraft into a fully electric aircraft and slash operating costs.
According to company projections, the all-electric 172 will boast energy costs of only $5-$10 per hour. Assuming a fuel burn of 9 gallons per hour and an average price for a gallon of aviation gas of about $4.90, stock Cessna 172 energy cost is more than $44 per hour. If 90% savings on energy costs isn’t enough, the company also cites a 25,000 hour TBO for their 180-horsepower powerplant, which weighs only 42 pounds. Unfortunately, for all the weigh savings offered by the powerplant, battery technologies are still relatively heavy and bulky. The lithium ion batteries required to power the aircraft, will cancel out any weight reductions, so weight and balance is unlikely to change.
The Bye-improved Cessna 172, which also features some aesthetic changes, will likely fly in early to mid 2011. Thanks to the significantly smaller powerplant, the cowling will be taper to almost nothing, increasing the amount of power generated by the propeller. Current models use a large portion of the propeller to drive airflow for engine cooling. While the proof of concept aircraft features a standard two-blade propeller, a six-blade, composite propeller will drive the conforming aircraft.