Edmonton air race pilot Scott Holmes is trading the roar of Reno for the whir of electric airplane racing. The 30-year-old oil refinery engineer has been racing his Cassutt in the National Championship Air Races and the Air Race 1 race series the last couple of years and will be one of eight pilots in the Air Race E series of races that will start next year. Working with a team of Silicon Valley engineers and electric car specialists, Holmes has removed the Continental O200 from the Cassutt and replaced it with an electric motor that he’s not releasing any details on except to say it’s all part of the never ending quest to get more speed out of the machine. “Experimenting is kind of in all our blood as air racers,” Holmes told the Edmonton Star. “We go faster by experimenting an trying to figure out how our machines work and how to make them better.”

Working with the tiny Cassutt is a particularly challenging technical exercise. The airplane is only four feet high, has a wing span of just 16 feet and only weighs a few hundred pounds so there’s not much room for batteries. Those lithium ion batteries have to be contained in case they experience thermal runaway and start a fire. “It would kill me, so the airplane needs to be to tolerate that kind of failure without being fatal to me.” The races themselves will be more like short head-to-head dashes around a pyloned course with spe