The program has lofty aims and laudable goals.
A UK non-profit is developing an all-electric version of the popular Zenith CH-750 for use as medical transport for personnel to use in hard-to-reach places. The organization, which goes by the unlikely acronym of NUNCATS and even less likely name of “No Unnecessary Novelty Community Air Transport,” says that the goal is to provide clean air transport to help the estimated one billion people worldwide with no access to health care. Normally powered by a Rotax four-cycle internal combustion aircraft engine, NUNCATs has modified the plane, normally an LSA, into an electric personal transport.
While not perfect, the idea does have a lot going for it, some of which isn’t talked about much when the subject of electric aircraft comes up. While the environmental impact of a handful of LSAs is massively inconsequential, electric propulsion has one very strong thing going for it. Their motors are extraordinarily reliable, with few moving parts and accessories, so it’s far easier to fix or to swap out, neither of which is an easy thing when you’re 250 miles from the nearest paved runway.
Zenith knows the project is forward looking. Company president Sebastian Heintz wrote in a release, that Zenith is, “…well aware that today’s battery technology will not permit the range and endurance available with ICE [internal combustion engines], there are some clear advantages of electric power in addition to the more obvious sustainability claims,” but, he continued, “The simplicity of electric motors has the potential to make light aircraft propulsion systems more reliable and easier to install and maintain (especially important for amateur aircraft builders and owners), and near-instantly available torque of electric power can further improve upon the STOL (short take-off and landing) performance of Zenith kit aircraft designs.”
NUNCATs is looking for additional funding for the project, though like many similar electric conversions, the holy grail would be a huge increase in battery energy storage capacity.