NZ’s first electric plane unveiled

New Zealand’s first electric aeroplane will be officially unveiled at Christchurch Airport on October 30.

The two-seater Alpha Electro trainer has been bought from Slovenian manufacturer Pipistrel by Christchurch company Electric Airline Ltd, trading as Electric Air.

Majority shareholder and director Gary Freedman said yesterday the plane arrived in the country a couple of months ago and was being tested.

Flying it after flying a conventional aircraft was like driving an automatic car having learned to drive a manual, he said.

"There’s less to think about probably, because it’s very simple."

Mr Freedman said it was very enjoyable to fly, in large part because it was so quiet.

He described it as a "stepping stone" to short-haul commercial flights using electric aircraft.

Sounds Air announced this week it had signed a letter of intent with Swedish aircraft manufacturer Heart Aerospace to buy at least one 19-seat ES-19 electric aircraft, due to become available in 2026.

The Alpha is understood to be the only commercially available electric plane in the world, with the exception of electric motor-gliders.

It can fly for at least one hour before its battery needs recharging or replacing.

Asked if pilots would feel "range anxiety" as some electric car owners did, Mr Freedman said pilots were very well trained to ensure there was adequate fuel "whether it’s petrol or electricity".

"In fact, the gauges you get with electric aircraft are even more accurate."

The battery weighs 126kg, but the motor just 11kg.



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