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Car Review

Pipistrel Velis Electro review

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Published: 15 Feb 2022
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Proof that electric planes really will happen. A beautifully serene way to travel

Good stuff

Super lightweight, super quiet and superb fun

Bad stuff

Expensive, small battery limits range

Overview

What is it?

This, you might have noticed, is not a car. It’s called the Pipistrel Velis Electro and it’s the first and only type-certified electric aircraft in existence. So, when Skoda invited TG to have a go recently alongside a drive of the Enyaq, we were straight there to find out whether the future of flying is similar to that of driving.

Velis? Great name.

Correct. Those with an overly expensive education will know already that Velis comes from the Latin word for ‘sail’. Obviously the Electro won’t quite float in the air on wind-power alone, but it should be far quieter and better for the planet when compared to most light-aircraft.

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Pipistrel is a Slovenian company that has been building gliders and planes since 1989. The Velis isn’t its first electric attempt – that was the Taurus Electro – but it is the first to be certified by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), so it can actually be used commercially. Interestingly, it’s very much set up to act as a training plane for new pilots. This is good news for TG’s first flight.

Give me some powertrain stats then. The battery must be massive?

That’s where you’d be wrong, strangely. Pipistrel uses two liquid-cooled battery packs (one in front of the cabin and one just behind) that combined provide a capacity of just 24.8kWh. For reference, even the Mini Electric gets a 32.6kWh battery and our long-term Fiat 500 uses a 42kWh whopper. Combining the two separate packs does allow for Pipistrel to automatically run the Velis off just one battery if there’s an issue with the other, though. If both go wrong, a giant parachute can be deployed to bring you safely back to hallowed ground, although it’s almost less likely you’ll have a powertrain issue in the Electro because there are fewer moving parts than in a combustion engined aircraft.

Click through to the driving (should really be flying) tab for more on that all-important range.

What about power?

The electric motor is mounted right up in the nose just behind the composite propeller. It kicks out around 76bhp, which translates to a cruising speed of 90 knots (just over 100mph) and a rather scary sounding ‘never exceed speed’ of 108 knots (124mph).

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If you need an idea of size – the Velis is a strict two-seater with a 10.71m wingspan. It also uses a whole heap of carbon fibre in its construction and only weighs 428kg in total. No need for three point turns on the ground – one person can easily grab hold of the tail and whip it round 180 degrees.

The powertrain and carbon construction are both remarkably similar to what you’d find in the automotive world too, so please don’t shout at us for writing about aeroplanes…

What's the verdict?

Proof that electric planes really will happen. A beautifully serene way to travel

For us to properly understand the Velis Electro it’s worth comparing it to cars. It’s genesis for type-certified planes – which means it’s literally the G-Wiz of the flying world. Thankfully it’s an absolute world away from that hateful quadricycle, though, and proves that EV planes really can happen.

As battery tech improves flight times will increase, but the Velis makes use of what’s available today and does it very well. It’s lightweight, beautifully quiet and remarkably simple to pilot. If this is the future of air travel, we’re all for it indeed.

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