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30 Oct 2020

New Zealand’s first electric aircraft launched at Christchurch Airport

New Zealand’s first electric plane has been launched today by Christchurch start-up ElectricAir.

It’s a battery electric two-seat light aircraft manufactured by Slovenian aircraft company Pipistrel and though designed as a training aircraft, is available for people wanting to experience electric flight and learn to fly in a more sustainable way.

ElectricAir founder Gary Freedman says the idea to operate New Zealand’s first electric plane began back in 2016. “I was driving an electric car but flying a petrol plane. It just wasn’t good enough so I set out to find a solution. On the pretence of a family holiday in Slovenia, I visited the Pipistrel factory and flew in the Alpha Electro. I was hooked and the rest is history,” he says.

ElectricAir’s mission is to promote the uptake of electric aircraft to reduce the aviation industry’s greenhouse gas emissions. The start-up has received support from Christchurch City Council’s Innovation and Sustainability Fund and the Christchurch Agency for Energy Trust.

“The battery electric aircraft is just the type of innovation that the Council wants to support for the city. Aviation transportation is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions and this initiative demonstrates a technology that reduces emissions and provides the opportunity to educate pilots and the community about this exciting new technology” Christchurch City Council Resource Efficiency Manager Kevin Crutchley says.

Christchurch Airport has supported the ElectricAir project as another part of its electrification and decarbonisation programme. General Manager of Strategy and Sustainability Rhys Boswell says ElectricAir will be the inaugural user of the newest charging infrastructure. “We use electricity to power jet aircraft while they’re parked on the ground, we offer EV and e-Bike charging stations, so installing e-plane charging infrastructure was a natural next step,” he says. “We are proud to be the launch pad for ElectricAir and to further power up to keep emissions down.”

About the Pipistrel Alpha Electro:

  • The plane’s battery lasts up to 90 minutes and can be recharged in under an hour making it ideal for pilot training
  • The plane will be charged from a dedicated charging station
  • Operations will take place from Christchurch Airport and the Rangiora Airfield
  • The plane is approximately 70% quieter than its fossil-fuelled equivalents
  • The plane is simple and inexpensive to maintain as there are few moving parts.