Electric plane wins $1.35 million prize
The Pipistrel USA Taurus G4, a four-seat, twin-fuselage aircraft, earned the $1.35 million first prize from NASA.
October 4th, 2011
07:38 AM ET

Electric plane wins $1.35 million prize

A Pennsylvania company has won a $1.35 million prize from NASA for developing a highly efficient airplane power by electricity.

Pipistrel-USA.com of State College earned the top prize in the CAFE Green Flight Challenge, sponsored by Google, NASA announced Monday.

The plane developed by Pipistrel doubled the fuel efficiency requirement for the competition flying 200 miles in less than two hours while using less than a gallon of fuel per occupant or the equivalent in electricity. The winning plane used a little more than a half-gallon of fuel per passenger for the 200-mile flight.

Team Pipistrel-USA.com was one of 14 entrants in the competition, which began two years ago. In total, the 14 teams invested $4 million in the competition, according to NASA.

"Two years ago the thought of flying 200 miles at 100 mph in an electric aircraft was pure science fiction," Jack W. Langelaan, team leader of Team Pipistrel-USA.com, said in statement. "Now, we are all looking forward to the future of electric aviation."

Second place, and a $120,000 prize, went to Team eGenius of Ramona, California, whose leader, Eric Raymond, congratulated Team Pipistrel.

The winning aircraft, the Pipistrel Taurus G4, is a four-seat, twin-fuselage aircraft powered by a 145-kilowatt brushless electric motor driving a two-blade propeller mounted on a spar between the fuselages. The plane's wingspan is about 75 feet.

"I'm proud that Pipistrel won. They've been a leader in getting these things into production, and the team really deserves it, and worked hard to win this prize," Raymond said in a NASA statement.

"Electric aircraft have moved beyond science fiction and are now in the realm of practice," Joe Parrish, acting chief technologist at NASA headquarters in Washington, said in a statement.

The planes flew last week out of Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport in California. Only three of the 14 entrants made it into the air, according to The Santa Rosa Press-Democrat. The airport is home to the Comparative Aircraft Flight Efficiency Foundation, which organized the competition with NASA.

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Filed under: Aviation • NASA
soundoff (242 Responses)
  1. Phillip Brame

    meme ok, but 400mpg. I do not care what they call it. I have one of the those Hybrid SUV's it gets less than 40mpg about 38 I still find myself complaining about gas mileage and fuel cost. I do not see that in this planes future. We as a people need to stop complaining and look at the big picture. What this would mean in the future is enormous the applications for this motor and charging system are endless.

    October 4, 2011 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • serita

      Pakistan spends more donor dollars from the United States every 30 minutes than what this prize was worth. Stop paying ransom money to Pakistan and start investing more at home.

      October 4, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Obamajoe

      i don't think it's paid in cash,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,very likely the money is paid by products or service from CONTRACTORS SUCH AS vice president's company,,,,,,,,,,,

      October 4, 2011 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Phillip Brame

    Some of you here do not read or should I say comprehend what you are reading very well. The plane was built here in the USA by students at a Penn State Col. It says nothing about any foriegn country being involved and even if it did or was some such country what would that matter. It is still innovation at it highest form.

    October 4, 2011 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mobes

      Read it again. It was not students at a Penn State College, it was a company in the town of State College, Pennsylvania.

      October 4, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gtg

      @Mobes...as a studet at penn state right now, the only reason companies do research in state college is because of funding provided directly or indirectly by the university....that means students doing research with professors or professors doing something on the side. most likely it was engineering students, but then again i haven't read the paper today ;-)

      October 4, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Dalfrom CA

    Yes we could use the new motor in the cars. The use of carbon fiber and reduction in the weight will be a great help in the future of automobile industry.

    October 4, 2011 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • dan

      Good call, but I for one would be hesitant to be driving a carbon fiber car in a sea of SUVs. Would not want to get in an accident (especially with 200 lbs of battery behind my head). We have to find a way to get lighter and develop battery packs without sacrificing safety. Does carbon fiber conduct electricity? Have you heard about the Prius' that can't be opened with Jaws of life due to risk of electrocution? We have a lot of work to do. I just hope that people are finally willing to do it.

      October 4, 2011 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cheeseburger

      Tesla uses carbon fiber. Their cars are $120K. The average Joe can't afford this.

      October 4, 2011 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cheeseburger

      Actually, there is a car available right now with similar technology. (Electric drive with onboard gas generator for providing electricity to the electric motor once the charge is depleted.) It's the Chevrolet Volt. I don't know about the Prius, but the Volt is a heavier car and during testing, extraction of occupants from a severe crash did not require any more effort than a regular car and electrocution was not a factor.

      October 4, 2011 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Guy

      Dan,
      If carbon fiber is good enough for Formula 1, it should be good enough for you. Safety is not an issue with carbon fiber. I'd rather get in an accident in an electric carbon fiber car, than in a metal car loaded with gasoline. Actually, I'd rather not get in an accident in either.

      October 4, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • WK

      Carbon fiber is stronger than steel... and more costly. It has to be properly structured and cured to achieve the performance of steel. You cannot currently afford to drive a car of carbon fiber.

      October 4, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Darth Vadik, CA

    This is when you will get me to be a test pilot or fly one of these "experimental" planes....

    NEVER...

    And I've been flying planes for almost 20 years....

    October 4, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ben Frankly

      @Darth Vadik, CA. The fact that you are a pilot adds nothing to the fact that you don't want to fly an electric aircraft. I envy you as a pilot and weep for you as an innovator.

      Let me guess your thoughts, “If it aint broke don’t fix it.” You're certainly no Charles Lindbergh sir.

      October 4, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • rugbytv

      And if people around the time of the Wright brothers had said that, well, you know....

      Experimentation involves risk. Progress requires experimentation.

      Fortunately, there will always be those who are willing to risk to innovate.

      October 4, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Phillip Brame

    Oh and by the way NASA=USA.

    October 4, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Obamajoe

      WHATEVER,,,the money is spend in USA,,,,,not that bad,,,,,,

      October 4, 2011 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Cheeseburger

    Laudible efforts, but we don't have the money for this any more. We are broke. All of these "nickels and dimes" add up to the horrible financial shape we're in. It all must be cut. Again, we're broke. Our government cannot afford to assist in the development of anything. That's reserved for richer countries. Free enterprise is going to have to do R&D or it won't be done at all. And hey, I'm a private pilot, I love this stuff! And as a private pilot, I can tell you first hand that they need to stop giving so much money – or any at all – to subsidize general aviation. Again, we're broke.

    October 4, 2011 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • rugbytv

      Yeah, we don't have money to find ways to make ourselves more efficient – it's too expensive! /sarcasm

      October 4, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Obamajoe

    Come on,, the dark side of congress bought by the oil companies will not allow the real fuel efficiency ,,,,,,,,,,think about what happened to the solar panel made in USA,,,,,,,,,,

    October 4, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. donklos

    You may want to fix the typo in the first sentence.

    October 4, 2011 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Obamajoe

      abuka baka

      October 4, 2011 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pr Rl

      How aobut the eelctrc palne? Taht's all you hvave to say is the tpyo? You msut be a vrey sad preson.

      October 4, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Obamajoe

    have fun and a good night,,,,,,,,,,,,

    October 4, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. eg

    Tyrell USR

    October 4, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Phillip Brame

    MOBES you are correct about the town name.

    October 4, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Luke

    I wonder if the requirements included the takeoff and landing phase of the flight, or was it straight and level for 200 miles @ 100mph?

    October 4, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Gnarly Waves

    Like everyone in the world should move to California and like we should all surf to work and save the world one wave at a time.

    October 4, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Badly-Bent

    Pilotted by the Energizer Bunny?

    October 4, 2011 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Jeff Johnson

    This is huge...congratulations. The US should continue to strive to succeed with great research like this. If we don't develop it another country will. Great work to all the guys/gals who worked on the project!

    October 4, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • vlasta5

      yes, the other country did develop it. IT is SLOVENIA. PIPISTREL is from SLOVENIA not USA. THEY won for the fourth time. Maybe now American comanies will wake up, when a tiny company from a small 2 million people contry can beat them for the fourth time.

      October 9, 2011 at 6:52 pm | Report abuse |
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