Video: Chip Yates Sets Electric Airplane Speed Record

Some people are born to go fast. For whatever reason, these human beings are wired in a way that compels them to chase speed, and Chip Yates is just such a person. Already holding the electric motorcycle land speed record, last week Yates set his sights on another record; that of electron-powered flight. Once again, Yates came through, setting an unofficial speed record for electric aircraft, though not before suffering a dramatic battery malfunction that left his plane without power.

Off The Record, But Still Important

Of course such a record attempt doesn’t just materialize overnight. It took Yates and his team months to convert a Long-EZ airplane to all-electric power, renaming it the Long-ESA (Electric Speed & Altitude). Powered by a 250 horsepower UQM motor the Long-ESA, with Yates at the yoke, managed to set an unofficial air speed record of 202.6 mph.

Unofficial because Yates was unable to do a repeat run after he apparently pushed the battery pack too far, too fast, frying the 12 kWh pack and leaving the Long-ESA with a no-power problem. Showing us why he does what he does, Yates kept his cool and brought the electric airplane back to Earth in one piece. And so for the second time in a year, Chip Yates has broken an electric speed record on vehicles he had a hand in designing himself.

Technological Repercussions

Yates’ efforts were backed by Flight of the Century, who are pursuing a composite, long range/infinite flight airplane or UAV project with the U.S. Navy watching their progress. The project is doubly beneficial because radar has a hard time tracking the composite body structure, and infared tracking can’t really lock on to the (comparatively) low heat signature of an electric powertrain. Scary stuff if you’re a bad guy, that’s for sure.

You’ve got to admire a person who puts their own lives at risk for both the thrill of record breaking, and at the same timing daring humanity to push the technological envelope. Yates reasons for doing what he does may be selfish or they may be noble. Either way, he is challenging the status quo, and showing us what is possible with different kinds of technology. Sure, his battery failed, but he will be back with an even better battery, and more speed. Because people like Yates just have to go fast.

Source: Autoblog Green

Christopher DeMorro

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.