China's First Domestically Developed Electric Aircraft Quietly Takes To The Air

The lightweight, electrically-powered RX1E aircraft made its public debut at Airshow China and sources state the country's first domestically developed electric aircraft is about to enter mass production.

Manufactured by Shenyang Aerospace University, the RX1E is a single-propeller, fixed landing gear, two-seat parasol monoplane that employs a lithium ion battery pack to drive an electric motor. Among its many positive attributes are zero emissions, negligible noise, and low operating costs.

The extensive use of lightweight composite materials has resulted in an aircraft whose maximum takeoff weight is only 480 kg (1,060 lbs). Based on an advised cruise speed of up to 160kph (just under 100mph), the fully-charged RX1E can fly for 90 minutes at an altitude of 3,000 meters (9,840 ft) over a 230 km (145 miles) range.

Though these flight parameters may seem modest, they're actually ideal for the RX1E's projected uses: police patrols, flight training, aerial surveying, and recreation to name just a few.

The RX1E also appeals economically. According to Song Mingkai, one of the RX1E's designers, each hour of flight will cost only 20 yuan ($3.25) including 5 yuan (82 cents) for battery charging.

Now that the RX1E RX1E has successfully completed 240 take offs and landings, the next step is acquiring its airworthiness certificate, expected by the end of 2014. Pending certification, mass production is tentatively scheduled to begin in the second quarter of 2015.

“We plan to reach an annual production of 100 such aircraft within three years,” stated Yang Fengtian, an academic at the Chinese Academy of Engineering and the president of Shenyang Aerospace University, “and the construction of a manufacturing plant that can make 100 RX1Es each year has begun in Shenyang” in China's northeastern Liaoning province.

Each RX1E fitted with a set of batteries is expected to sticker-price for 1 million yuan (about $163,000) and Yang expects the Chinese domestic aircraft market alone requires at least 1,000 RX1E's to meet demand from general aviation businesses. (via SINA English, CAN News, and CAFE Foundation)