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Taking Charge: Ford F-150 Lightning Powers Electric Plane Trip

The Ford F-150 Lightning is one of the most unique electric vehicles (EVs) on the market. It’s highly efficient when it comes to driving range and charging time. What makes it stand out is the bidirectional charging and vehicle-to-home capabilities

It can power everything from your home during a blackout to a full-blown movie set. It’s even given a charge back to competitors’ EVs. Perhaps the Lightning’s most impressive feat is powering an electric plane trip. 

Remy Oktay, a student at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania, made history on Nov. 13, 2022, when he flew his Pipistrel Alpha Electro propeller plane from Hartford, CT, to Easton, PA, using F-150 Lightning trucks to charge his aircraft. The plan was to fly over the Lafayette vs. Lehigh football game on Nov. 19. 

“The goal is to raise awareness of electric planes and other hybrid/electric vehicles and the benefits of green aviation,” Oktay said.

Still a young pilot, Oktay has proven just how incredible these EVs can be. Upon departing Hartford airport, he made five stops to charge the airplane.

It could not have been done without coordination between Oktay and some ambitious Lightning owners. 

The Pipistrel does not have enough battery power to make the 250-mile journey on a single charge. In addition, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations require the plane to land with at least 30 minutes of reserve. Thus, Oktay could only fly for about an hour at a time. 

However, most of the smaller airports he planned to land at do not have electric charging infrastructure. So, he got creative, hitting up a Lightning owners’ forum to coordinate charging times along his journey to Easton.

Photo Courtesy Remy Oktay/Lightning Owners

The F-150 Lightning comes standard with a 9.6-kilowatt Pro Power Onboard setting. Essentially, this technology can power your home in a pinch. It’s the perfect amount of power to return charge to Oktay’s 21-kilowatt battery plane. 

A convoy of four trucks, three Teslas, and two chase aircraft followed the plane and communicated with Oktay to coordinate landings and charge times. Twenty-eight people assisted the student as he stopped at five airports to charge the Pipistrel.

Photo Courtesy Remy Oktay/Lightning Owners

Oktay made the flyover at the football game on Nov. 19 and made a return trip to Hartford on Nov. 22.

The successful trip serves as a testament to the bidirectional charging capabilities of the Lightning. The intrigue around the vehicle for potential car buyers will only increase as it can charge other EVs, serve as a generator, and still be able to drive a decent distance. 

This flight is also a milestone for electric aviation. While there are still many hurdles regarding FAA regulations, a college student with only two years of piloting experience could get a prop plane across four states. Better yet, he did it with bidirectional charging, which shows that EVs can serve a greater purpose beyond transportation. 

However, this trip also shows the limitations of electric planes as the infrastructure for aviation charging isn’t up to scale yet. This flight could be the catalyst for new stations.

Photo Courtesy Pipistrel Aircraft

As for the plane, the Pipistrel Alpha Electro gained great attention by completing this trip. It is designed to be a lighter, quieter training aircraft that can charge in less than an hour. Oktay had said he was able to power it using his Nissan LEAF

“Leading up to it, so many people have said, ‘I didn’t even know that electric planes existed,’” Oktay said. “Getting people aware of that and getting people to be excited in that, invested in it, will only help to accelerate that adoption and innovation.”


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