The American aircraft manufacturer launched the Ampaire 337, the largest hybrid-electric aircraft ever flown. The company plans to start commercial flights in 2021.
Ampaire, based in Los Angeles, unveiled its prototype electric-powered airplane, the Ampaire 337, on a test flight over Camarillo airport in California on June 6. Never before has a hybrid-electric airplane of such magnitude been taken off. "Imagine that in a few years you can buy tickets for clean, quiet and cheap flights"says Kevin Noertker, the CEO of the emerging company founded in March 2016.
The twin-engine airplane can carry from 7 to 9 passengers and has a range of up to 160 kilometers. It is based on the six-seat Cessna 337 Skymaster, now modernized with Ampaire's patented electric propulsion system powered by a lightweight battery system.
The company said that this is a "parallel hybrid", ie an internal combustion engine and an electric motor that work together to optimize output power while the airplane flies.
A great ecological step
Reducing the impact of aviation on the environment is an industry-wide goal. When faced with pressures to reduce the impact of aircraft on the environment, airlines and manufacturers seek environmentally friendly alternatives: from carbon offset schemes to industry sustainability targets and alternative fuels.
Airlines are committed to achieving carbon-free growth after 2020 and reducing net aviation emissions by 50% by 2050 compared to 2005 levels.
According to the European Commission, aircraft emissions currently account for about 3% of total EU greenhouse gas emissions and about 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Emissions per person from a flight from London to New York are approximately equal to those of a person in the EU who warms up their home for a full year.
In the hybrid configuration, the aircraft sees large savings in greenhouse gas emissions and reductions in operating costs. Electric airplanes are also quieter.
"Given the urgency of the climate crisis, today's historic getaway is not just a big step for aviation but a big step for Los Angeles' leadership in electrification of transportation," said Matt Petersen, chief executive officer of Los Angeles. Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI), owner of Ampaire.
The test aircraft will see the aircraft fly several times a week from June through August 2019 and will collect data on the performance characteristics of electric propulsion, the company said in a statement. He also announced that he would start a pilot project on a commercial route on the Hawaiian island of Maui in late 2019.
Ampaire's goal is to provide aircraft for regional airlines, which usually fly over short distances and often serve remote communities and island regions.
In addition, the company is collaborating with Vieques Air Link, a regional airline in Puerto Rico, to establish a pilot project in the region. In addition, he has signed letters of interest with 14 other airlines around the world.
Other electric airplanes
In turn, Airbus and SAS Scandinavian Airlines are also working together to explore the potential of new technologies and have signed a memorandum of understanding this year for joint research on an ecosystem of hybrid and electric aircraft. In addition, the European aerospace giant has partnered with US rival Boeing to study alternative fuels, alternative propulsion systems and design more efficient aircraft.
Similarly, Zunum Aero, an emerging aviation technology company in the US, has been working with Boeing and JetBlue since 2013 to develop an electric aircraft with a capacity of up to 50 passengers. The company began developing a 12-seat aircraft in October 2017 with the goal of flying in 2020.
Other aviation companies working with electric aircraft include Britain's Faradair, which hopes to certify its 18-seat aircraft by 2025, and the US-based Wright Electric, which plans to design a commercial aircraft capable of flying distances of up to 480 kilometers. Joby Aviation, another US startup, has spent the last decade developing its own electric motors and recently earned $ 100 million in funding to prepare for production and certification.
In Germany, a partnership between engineering giant Siemens, engine maker Rolls-Royce and Airbus is developing an airplane called E-Fan X, another example of hybrid airlines.