Airbus-backed tournament unveils first electric racing aircraft

(Reuters) – An Airbus-backed air racing tournament unveiled an electric-powered sports aircraft on Sunday, billed as the world’s first, as the European planemaker seeks to boost its green aerospace technology.

Several companies, including U.S. ride-hailing company Uber Technologies Inc (UBER.N), are working on electric-powered flying cars, amid increasing concerns about the environmental impact of fossil-fuel intensive air travel.

Last month, Airbus (AIR.PA) rival Boeing announced a partnership with automaker Volkswagen’s (VOWG_p.DE) sports car brand, Porsche, to develop a concept electric flying vehicle capable of transporting people in urban environments.

Air Race E said the aircraft, called White Lightning and unveiled at the Dubai Air Show, will be manufactured by UK-based Condor Aviation.

The aircraft will use an electric motor that will carry it at flight speeds of around 482 kilometers (300 miles) per hour on a tight 5 kilometer (about 3 miles) circuit, just 10 meters above the ground.

“The racing series will provide a test bed for innovation and accelerate the journey towards electric commercial travel,” Air Race E Chief Executive Jeff Walkman said.

Lithium batteries installed under the fuselage of the plane will provide power for five minutes of high intensity racing and around 10 minutes of reserve flying at reduced power, the firm said.

Air Race E is aiming to be the world’s first all-electric airplane competition when it launches its inaugural series of international races in 2020. It expects to this week name eight teams for its first race.

Reporting by Ankit Ajmera in Dubai; Editing by Sam Holmes