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Rutan's Final Design: Model 367 BiPod

Roadable, electric hybrid takes flight

By Steve Schapiro, Senior Editor - Sport Aviation, EAA 1018168
BiPod
Originally conceived as a rapid, low-cost electric testbed, the effort evolved into a flying car.

BiPod
The project was accelerated to allow Rutan, a long-time advocate of personal electric aircraft, to see the vehicle completed before his retirement.

BiPod
All Photos Courtesy Scaled Composites

July 20, 2011 –True to form, Burt Rutan’s final project for Scaled Composites is pushing technological and design boundaries. The Model 367 BiPod, just unveiled by Scaled Composites, is a roadable, two-seat electric-hybrid aircraft. It made its first flight on March 30, just before Burt retired.

Burt will discuss the new aircraft in two forums at AirVenture – on Wednesday, July 27, at 10 a.m. and Friday, July 29, at 11:30 a.m. Both talks will be in Forum Pavilion 07 Mainstage- Honda Aircraft.

“What I’ll do is fill in the interesting things that aren’t out there yet,” Burt said. “You know, an engineer under duress occasionally blurts out the truth.”

What Scaled has released is that the twin-fuselages are made of fiberglass and carbon fiber, and connected by a canard in the front, an airfoil in the middle and a horizontal stabilizer. The BiPod has made several short flights over the Mojave Airport runway propelled by battery-powered wheels, but the four electric-powered propellers and motor nacelles have not yet been added. “It wasn’t completed when it was flown,” Burt told EAA shortly after his retirement.

The BiPod will have a 450cc internal-combustion engine in each fuselage powering generators supplying electricity to four 15-kW motors – one on each wing, and two on the horizontal stabilizer linking the twin tails. Additional power on takeoff is provided by lithium batteries in the nose that are recharged in flight, providing enough power for two landings in the event of an engine failure.

The aircraft is flown from the right fuselage, where flight controls are located, and driven from the left, which houses a steering wheel. So after you drive to the airport, you’ll have to get out, attach the wings, and switch sides before takeoff. The throttle is the only system linked in both sides.

The 31-foot, 10-inch wings are removable and can be stowed between the pods. On the ground the Bipod’s aft wheels are driven by 15-kW motors, and the nose wheel in each fuselage is steerable. It is designed to drive 820 miles on a tank of gas and 35 miles on the batteries alone, with the ability to reach highway speeds.

In the air, it is designed to cruise at 200 mph with a range of 530 miles in a higher-power mode, and up to 760 miles at 100 mph.

Gauging Interest
Burt said Scaled is gauging interest to see if there is a customer willing to take on the project. “I started it and got it through phase one without a customer, doing it on a shoestring-like budget,” Burt said. “I don’t know whether they [Scaled] have an appetite to do it without someone paying the bills.”

The project started as a research program. “We felt the technology and lessons learned on it were things we’d rather own ourselves than have a customer own them,” Burt said. “That’s why Scaled made the decision to do it all in house.”

Will the BiPod be at Oshkosh as part of the Burt Rutan Tribute on Thursday, July 28 along with the Boomerang, Catbird, and hundreds of Rutan-designed aircraft? Unfortunately, it won’t be making the trip this year. But that means we’ve got another new Rutan aircraft appearance to look forward to at an upcoming AirVenture.

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