Bye Energy says its electric-powered Cessna 172 will be much more than an airshow curiosity. In fact, the company told AVweb that it hopes to revolutionize the Part 23 training market with the aircraft. “Our clear focus is mainstream aviation,” company president George Bye said. “It’s ideal for training.” Bye said the aircraft will be a two-place with an endurance of two hours on a combination of battery power, solar and power reclaimed from wing tip devices intended to capture vortex energy in flight and by the push on the prop during descent. He said the company intends it to be “the point of entry for new pilots.”
Bye said the 172 is the ideal platform for the aircraft because it’s already the most popular training aircraft in the world. By making it electric, operating costs drop dramatically (they’re predicting $5-$10 an hour in energy costs) and the TBO of the 180-horsepower, 42-pound engine is estimated at as much as 25,000 hours. The resulting 172, which the company hopes will fly in early 2011, will look a little different. The cowling will be tapered for the much smaller motor and that means virtually all the prop’s thrust will be used for movement, rather than the significant amount that is used for engine cooling in current models. The conforming aircraft will have a six-bladed composite prop but the proof of concept will have a conventional two-blade prop. The weight shed by getting rid of the piston engine and the fuel it needs will be taken up by lithium ion batteries and the weight and balance is not expected to change.