NASA has awarded a Pennsylvania company a $1.35 million prize for developing an ultra-efficient electric airplane.
The Taurus G4 airplane won the prize by flying 200 miles from Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport in Santa Rosa, Calif., in less than two hours.
CNN reports that the airplane was created by Pipistrel-USA.com of State College. There were 14 airplanes in the competition, but the Pipistrel won easily. It nearly "doubled the fuel-efficiency requirement" for the contest.
The requirements were to fly 200 miles in two hours or less on less than a gallon of fuel (or the equivalent in electricity) for each passenger. The Pipistrel airplane used a bit more than a half-gallon of gas for each passenger. Most of the airplanes in the contest used electric engines, however, some entrants were powered by gasoline or biofuel.
Team leader Jack W. Langelaan said, "Two years ago the thought of flying 200 miles at 100 mph in an electric aircraft was pure science fiction. Now, we are all looking forward to the future of electric aviation."
Among the 14 airplanes competing, only three met the requirements for the competition, according to the Press-Democrat of Santa Rosa. The $1.35 million award is the largest in the history of aviation. All told, the competing teams invested more than $4 million in their airplanes.
Wired Magazine reports that the winning airplane "was developed and built in Slovenia as a technology demonstrator for the airplane maker." And while the company has no plans to mass-produce the airplane, it "does plan on using the liquid-cooled electric powertrain in a four-seat airplane it is developing and hopes to fly next year."
Check out photos from NASA's Flickr gallery.