The advent of all things electro-powered is one of the primary drivers behind adventure sports’ latest explosion. I recently entered a tiny corner of the arena as a content producer, which, given the timing, is a lot like drinking from a firehose the size of Niagara Falls. If you, like me, thought that EV motorbikes and electric longboards were where the e-craze ended, then you – also like me – would be ever so mistaken. Enter the electric wingsuit. Really.
Push aside those predictable electro-updates for the Electrified Wingsuit, the first airborne baby of BMW i, BMW Designworks, and Austrian stuntman Peter Salzmann. The Electrified Wingsuit is a 3-year-long labor of love that’s one part electric impellers, one part wingsuit. And this baby isn’t here to open up the dare-devilish art of proximity flying to the masses – at least not just yet.
Although initially conceived as a propellered backpack, Salzmann and Co. soon realized that the most efficient wingsuit configuration would place airflow on the diver’s chest. This design features two 5-inch (13-cm) centrifugal propellers (or “impellers”) fed by air inlets. The control station features a steering implement, two-finger throttle mechanism, power switch, and emergency cutoff switch.
Electric Wingsuit Thrust
The propulsion assembly bits spin up to 25,000 rpm, producing, as the folks at New Atlas put it, “a relatively modest 15 kW (20 hp),” for a period of up to 5 minutes. What does that mean, though? Compared to a non-motorized wingsuit, which breaks 100 km/h (62 mph) at max speed and is entropically inclined (dropping 1 meter in elevation for every 3 meters traveled), this electrified air-demon barrels through the atmosphere at over 300 km/h (186 mph) and actually gains elevation with time. Which sounds Icarus AF, frankly.
Keep in mind that, although imbued with firepower, the suit is still just a suit. Increased propulsion and speed necessitate greater core and limb strength. If anything, electric wingsuiting is for an even more exclusive brand of adrenaline junkie – come hella thirsty and mega strong.
Testing An Electric Wingsuit
After 30-ish successful wind tunnel tests (conducted in a specially adapted wingsuit tunnel), BMW i and Salzmann felt ready to take their concept public. Last week, Salzmann triumphantly put his pedal to the metal, donning the e-wingsuit alongside two fellow wingmen, both of whom wore non-motorized simp suits. The trio simul-jumped from a helicopter over the Del Brüder peaks in Salzmann’s native Austria. After gliding in tandem for a moment, Salzmann engaged the electric unit, veering sharply upwards, above the mountain peaks and his descending companions.
The reveal comes as part of BMW’s #NEXTGen 2020, an event that showcases the automaker’s newest mobile technologies. And while the e-wingsuit is but one of many exciting developments that BMW has on tap, it’s clearly the magnum opus for Salzmann, who sees it as much more than a new super toy:
“Sustainability is very important to me, and something I try to live my everyday life by. I enjoy nature from the air and on the ground – that’s why I aim to consistently follow the path of sustainability even when it comes to mobility. . . and thanks in no small part to the support of BMW i, the progress in electrification has made my dream possible.”