It’s easy to develop a passion for flying when both your parents are pilots and own their own plane.
So, it’s no surprise George Bye has a passion for flying. After all, he’s been around planes since he was in grade school.
As CEO of Bye Energy, he’s also developed a passion for making planes fly without fossil fuels.
Bye expects to have an all-electric plane flying around the suburbs of Denver by the end of this year. He expects to be putting electric-powered airplanes into the hands of customers by 2012.
Bye plans to replace the internal combustion engine in a standard, commercially available plane with a 90-pound, 168-horsepower electric motor built by UQM Technologies of Frederick, Colorado.
“This will transform the industry,” Bye says. “This is not a small-scale change. We’re talking about a significant, large scale change.”Initially, Bye’s “proof of concept” plane will be all electric, drawing power from four or five batteries installed behind the electric motor.
Ultimately, Bye expects to use non-fossil biofuel and solar power to extend the plane’s range.
The biofuel, also being developed by Bye Energy, will be used to power an auxiliary power unit -- a small generator that will charge the plane’s batteries during flight.
And Bye's working with Ascent Solar of Thornton, Colorado, to cover part of the plane’s wing and other parts of the plane’s exterior with a film of photovoltaic material thinner than a human hair that would also generate electricity for charging the plane’s batteries.
Bye says he has a few other tricks up his sleeve to extend the plane’s range even further. But he’s not talking about those just yet.
As Bye sees it, the electric motor has a number of advantages over the internal-combustion engine it’ll replace:
- It’s more efficient -- 95 percent versus 25 percent for the internal combustion engine.
- It’ll be cheaper to operate -- roughly $3 an hour for electric power versus $15 to $30 an hour for a gas-fueled plane.
- It has only one moving part versus more than more than 900 moving parts in the internal combustion engine. That will mean cheaper maintenance costs.
- And it’s both cleaner and quieter. The only sound comes from the rotation of the propeller, and Bye is working on noise-reduction technology to eliminate much of that noise.