Propulsion E: Electrical spirit
Our patented propulsion system has been especially developed for Antares sailplanes. It is the core of our LANGE-concept. The brushless external rotor motor EM42 with 42 kW is the first electric motor to be officially approved by the European aeronautical authority EASA. With an effectiveness of 90% and a maximum torque of 216 Nm (159 ft lb) our propulsion E is not only unique in aviation. Together with light and environment friendly high performance batteries, innovative power electronics and a slow-moving propeller with a big diameter it is part of a custom tailored, integrated overall system. With a maximum charging time of nine hours and a via SMS remote controlled load cycle, the Antares will be available to fly on any day.
Patented propulsion system
Climbing performance data for Antares 20E at a gross weight of 560 kg
The result of our approach is a so far unreached performance: a very good climb rate (ca. 4.2 m/s / 827 ft/min during initial climb), a sky-scraping climb altitude (more than 3,500m /11500 ft in smooth air) and an almost noiseless flight. High efficiency is one side of the Antares’ innovative and patented propulsion concept. However to make an idea suitable for daily use you have to look for reliability, safety, economic feasibility and user confidence. In contrast to a combustion engine our propulsion method has a system related high operation reliability and runs almost vibration-free. Breakup- and fatigue limit problems are consequently avoided. What’s more, we only need a relatively small amount of components and all of them are high-quality parts which minimizes the risk of default. And, last but not least: Maintaining the propulsion E costs outstandingly little time and effort compared to a conventional aircraft engine.
Developed and optimized especially for the Antares 20E, the propeller blades are mounted directly on the electric engine’s external rotor. The propeller’s diameter measures a large 2 m (6.6 ft) resulting in a low revolution speed, high efficiency and little noise emission. Since the electric motor is independent of air density the only propulsion-component contingent on altitude is the propeller. At an altitude of 3,000 m (9.800 ft) its efficiency factor is only 4% less than at sea level. The higher the aircraft flies, the faster the propeller has to rotate in order to deliver the engine’s power. At high altitudes (> 3000 m / 9.800 ft) the available power is thus limited by the engine’s maximum rotational speed. However, at 4500 m (13123 ft) the Antares 20E still accomplishes a decent climb rate of 1.8 to 2 m/s (354 – 394 ft/min). For that reason the Antares 20E is best preconditioned to launch from high altitude airfields and great for mountain flying.
All the propulsion system’s functions, like for example extending and retracting the propeller as well as power regulation are controlled by our patented “single lever control” on the left side of the cockpit. Controlling the propulsion unit works intuitively; it may very well be done without even looking at the handle. So the pilot may focus on flying and will not be distracted. The risk of operating errors is minimized.
Propulsion control system
To observe systems like the electric drive, the battery-system or hydraulics the sailplane carries a central processing unit, numerous sensors and it has a big color display in the cockpit. The main computer monitors the different subsystems and depicts all relevant system data plus some flight statistics on the instrument panel's big color screen. Should any parameter enter a critical range, its value will be displayed in a different color while an additional audio warning indicates the specific problem. Before takeoff, the pilot uses the big display to go through the pre-flight checklist; at the end of a flight the main flight data may be pulled from an electronic logbook.
Battery-systemThe Antares 20E is equipped with a battery-system based on lithium-ion cells of type SAFT VL41M. Lange Aviation was the first company worldwide to use these batteries. Meanwhile a remarkable number of other users have recognized the advantages of this specific cell type, and its range of application is continously growing.
Why lithium-ion cells?
Lithium is the lightest of all metals, and at the same time has the highest negative standard potential. Its low mass density and high voltage level result in a high specific energy density. Compared to other currently available lithium based cells (Li-Po / Li-Su), SAFT VL41M batteries have a great ability for high-current and a very high cyclic durability. Consequently SAFT VL41M Li-Ion cells represent the best electric energy source for an aircraft, while other merchantable battery types cannot be as capable.
Battery lifeTwo factors are crucial for the batteries’ life expectancy:
- number of charge/discharge cycles
- natural aging