Electric airplane gets $400,000 NASA grant

 - August 8, 2008, 9:36 AM

A fuel-cell-powered electric airplane is the goal of Worcester, Mass.-based Advanced Technology Products and its nonprofit arm, the Foundation for Advancing Science and Technology Education. At Oshkosh, ATP announced its receipt of a $400,000 NASA grant to develop a fuel cell and exhibited a modified DynAero Lafayette III, built and donated by American Ghiles Aircraft of Deland, Fla. The airplane is being developed in three phases. During the first phase of flying the airplane will be powered by rechargeable lithium ion batteries; in the second phase power will be augmented by a hydrogen-powered fuel cell; and in the third phase the airplane will be powered only by fuel cell. The goal is to fly up to 800 miles without refueling. Although emission free (their byproduct being water vapor), fuel cells are expensive and storing or generating hydrogen in a small airplane is problematic. Now in Phase I, the airplane taxied under battery power last September, and ATP president James Dunn told AIN his goal is to fly by December 17 this year. He estimates that Phase II flying will begin in about a year.