The E-Fan, an Airbus creation that runs on motors powered by lithium-ion batteries, crossed the English channel earlier today, claiming the title of the first all-electric aircraft to have reached the geographic benchmark.
The 1,300-pound aircraft took off in Lydd, England and alighted Calais, France, completing the 31-mile journey in 37 minutes, reaching a peak altitude of 3,500 feet.
The E-Fan had already taken more than a hundred flights in preparation for the Channel crossing.
Didier Esteyne, the pilot of the E-Fan’s channel flight, who also designed the aircraft, has extensive experience as a competitive aerobatic display pilot.
Airbus’s claim to the title of flying the first electric plane across the English Channel has been disputed by Hugues Duval, who reported crossing the channel in an electric Crici plane hours before Airbus.
Duval didn’t take off in his plane, however. It had to be initially towed by another plane because he lacked permission from aerospace authorities, a detail Airbus has seized on to argue that his flight was illegitimate.
“We are not worried. It would not count because we understand he set off from another plane. We applaud the intrepid aviator that did this, although the actual details are yet to be confirmed,” said an Airbus spokesman.
Airbus plans to start the production a 2-seater model of the E-fan in 2017, and they’re not the only ones interested in electric planes. NASA has already began experimenting with the concept. Exciting as these early experiments are, we’re still a bit far from all-electric airplanes replacing gasoline-guzzling commercial carriers some time soon.