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Formula 1: Electric Version

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Swampyankee

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In the "Beat Strega" thread, wwalton suggested an electric air racer class based on Formula 1 air racing.

This sounds like an interesting idea, if somebody can cough up a decent sized bucket of prize money.

I'm thinking that using the Formula 1 rules for inspiration may be a plan: specify a motor, and add minimum and maximum weight limits. Does anybody think that something resembling exciting racing can be made and some benefactor could be convinced to toss in a pool of prize money to start?

Where are Larry Ellison (he's got a pilot's license) and Elon Musk (it's electric!) when we need them?

How would everybody write the rules?
 

Kyle Boatright

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Great idea, but with battery, controller, and motor technology evolving, do you have an "F1" style class as you describe (specified electrical system) and an unlimited class, where you're free to run most anything? That would allow the casual racer to fly in the F1 class without the expense of chasing technology, but would allow the unlimited folks to push technology, which would be good for all of us.
 

Himat

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The rules?
Airplane rules like F1. Add max weight limit.

Like Autoreply say, regulate the battery pack, have motor and controller free. The battery pack can be specified by type and number of cells with how to make up the pack free.

Slightly more restrictive rules specify the interconnection and form factor of the battery too. That makes the batteries interchangeable and the packs could be by provided by the race organizer.

Some electric RC pylon racing classes have a watt meter liming the available energy for the race. That is another possibility to keep costs in check with “free” battery choice. That could be a suitable route for an “unlimited” class?
 

tspear

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I would suggest start by limiting the power pack and weight only.
Let people push the limits on the rest. If it starts to get boring or dangerous, then you add restrictions.
If you regulate the motor, you prevent people from going with a lot of small motors, or allow someone to drop a few million on the unobtainable super dense battery that can run full throttle for the whole length....
Having this just be a race to the biggest wallet does not seem super fascinating.

Tim
 

Himat

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No need for a controller. Just need a go/ no-go switch.


BJC
To the pilot only on of switch is needed.:gig:
Still, electronic commutated multiphase motors do need a “controller” to generate the rotating field that make the motor turn.
 

Swampyankee

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Great idea, but with battery, controller, and motor technology evolving, do you have an "F1" style class as you describe (specified electrical system) and an unlimited class, where you're free to run most anything? That would allow the casual racer to fly in the F1 class without the expense of chasing technology, but would allow the unlimited folks to push technology, which would be good for all of us.
I've no objection to an unlimited class.
 

wwalton

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If enough people have interest in EV air racing then there is no doubt that tiers would need to be set up for multiple variables. I thought that the first step would be to get permission to run a EV F1 against the bronze class of IF1, slab wing vs slab wing. In that case the HP vs KW needs to be similar.

The draw for some people will be the R&D for future technology. I would think that battery tech is the hands down winner for development dollars. So it would seem like a spec motor class where the battery is the variable would be best for that group.

If you could use an off the shelf motor like the Nissan Leaf motor then the cost could be contained and that would open up the possibilities of getting sponsors for batteries and controllers. I'm not sure how you regulate the batteries perhaps a weight restriction. If you limit the plane to 120Lbs of batteries then the voltage and type could be the variable.

In a very informal two person survey of college freshmen, my kids, they expressed more interest in this EV air race than they did about 1940's warbirds racing. They could not name a car with an LS V8 but they know what a Prius, Volt and Leaf are powered by. Where did I go wrong?
 

wwalton

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Should have read Tspear's post more carefully battery weight does seems like a good idea for a limit.

Also to address the concerns of some that say EV would be boring you could spin the prop tips up to .92 MACH and let them make those cool noises that should help. If you watch the Formula E car racing you may enjoy the real time telemetry that each car produces, that could be done and displayed to add another layer of tech for the next generation, they are used to doing everything with their IPhone in front of them.
 

BJC

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A race at Reno, that the organizers promised to run for several years, would do more to promote rapid development / application of electric flight in the USA than any other option. It would not even require large amounts of prize money.


BJC
 

autoreply

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I would suggest start by limiting the power pack and weight only.
Let people push the limits on the rest. If it starts to get boring or dangerous, then you add restrictions.
If you regulate the motor, you prevent people from going with a lot of small motors, or allow someone to drop a few million on the unobtainable super dense battery that can run full throttle for the whole length....
Having this just be a race to the biggest wallet does not seem super fascinating.

Tim
The biggie is that optimal batteries (and solar panels) are humongously expensive. This is what in the Nuna solar racers drives the majority of the cost.

By regulating batteries to one standard type, one can focus on the airframe and prop (electric motors can be >>97% efficient, little to be gained there). That way you emphasise brainpower and construction skills, not $$$.

Allowing everyone the same amount of energy is fairly straightforward; require a climb to 5000 ft AGL after the race with a minimum voltage and apply a proportionate time penalty if you can climb less than that because you've run down to a certain charge.
 

wwalton

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I'm not really up to date on the available motors and controllers. My thoughts are that the cheapest and best for the money will be the mass produced products created for the vehicle industry. I don't know this but I think the motor and batteries from a Nissan Leaf would be able to output the required power for the length of time needed to run a 8 lap F1 race. I believe it's a 30 kWh Lithium battery.
It's the same as the 60's builders that used the VW engine, we use what's available in the local car shop, instead of a VW we need a Leaf 80Kw. Or some other brand BMW? Lots of Prius hybrids but I don't think you can extract that motor from the hybrid setup. But the battery pack may be usable?
Ultimately the airplane will need to be redesigned to take advantage of the EV setup. There is no need for the huge cowling for a 80KW electric motor, but the weight and balance would require that the batteries also go where the old ICE was. Once you let go of the already viable airframes, like the Cassutt, then you could distribute batteries and streamline the shape. But first you have to have a venue to race. Like BJC said you need a commitment from the only air race track in the country. Or you need to get smaller races going again like Supervee. Oh and when I say "you" it means me or us.
 

fly2kads

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These guys have been working on an electric racing aircraft concept:
https://www.electro-flight.com/

I know they have displayed a mock-up before. From their news releases, it looks like they may have run their motor/controller combo earlier this year, which uses two contra-rotating props.
 

Highplains

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The RC pylon racers have what they call EF1, which are small semiscale Formula One designs. They fly on a 4S battery and limit the motors to a couple specific designs. There is a limit to battery weight. As a long time pylon racer going back to the 70's, I find it less interesting than watching paint dry. They deliberately kept the event slow (barely crack 110 mph).

It is purely a battery event, and at the rate battery tech has been evolving a hot setup today is an also ran tomorrow. I would hate to spend $5 to $10K on a pack with the abuse of high discharge rates and early obsolescence that would occur in full size racing.
 

Victor Bravo

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Everybody is missing the most important point.... an electric air race would bring in more and bigger sponsors, the E-car companies would use it as tech demo and development the same way they use / used car racing to develop better IC engine technology.

Electric air racers would have the "clean sheet" advantage of writing the rules in usch a way as to create racing around a smaller course, so that air racing can be safely brought to smaller airports, meaning that a larger number of races would happen... meaning that the sponsors would get more public exposure... meaning that the whole thing would be more worthwhile for them to sponsor.

Electric racers could likely be built smaller and lighter than IF1, which means that having them race around a 1.5 or 2 mile oval at 140mph would stilll create the appearance of high speeds and excitement (like old-school dirt track car racing).

The technical details of how much battery weight, and how much voltage or current, are unimportant. Those rules will be figured out to balance safety (for both the crowd and the pilot), entry cost, speed, etc.

I'm thinking something the size of a Cri-Cri, Davis DA-11, or a Jeanie's Teenie, but sleek and laminar.
 

Victor Bravo

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High aspect ratio wings, 6 or 8 to 1, and a maximum Vso somewhere in the 61 knot range, so you are not creating anything that is really demanding to fly.
 

Himat

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It is purely a battery event, and at the rate battery tech has been evolving a hot setup today is an also ran tomorrow. I would hate to spend $5 to $10K on a pack with the abuse of high discharge rates and early obsolescence that would occur in full size racing.
Batteries are as petrol fuel a consumable. Electric batteries last a number of flights, the petrol in the tank last one flight…
To keep cost down and make the race closer and more entertaining, rules that restrict batteries to one type cell make sense. A discharge rate limiter is a mean to make the battery pack last a little longer.
 

Himat

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Should have read Tspear's post more carefully battery weight does seems like a good idea for a limit.

Also to address the concerns of some that say EV would be boring you could spin the prop tips up to .92 MACH and let them make those cool noises that should help. If you watch the Formula E car racing you may enjoy the real time telemetry that each car produces, that could be done and displayed to add another layer of tech for the next generation, they are used to doing everything with their IPhone in front of them.
All out speed may not what keep pylon racing from being boring. The Red Bull air racers did not go that fast, but did entertain. And for sure one thing to look into is telemetry of view from the airplanes, to be followed on big screens at the event or broadcasted to every smart phone/tablet in the audience. With Wi-Fi to the audience they could even interactively to some degree chose what view they want on their smart phone/tablet.

As for noise, high speed, high power model airplanes are not quiet.
 
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