On 13 June 2023 the Italian airplane manufacturer Tecnam announced to terminate the P-Volt electric commuter airplane project although they will continue research activities to explore new emerging technologies and will be ready to bring the P-Volt back into the type certification arena as soon as technology evolution allows.
the rendering image of P-Volt design
Tecnam has concluded that the time for P-Volt is not yet ripe after three years of intensive studies covering the entire lifecycle of an all-electric aircraft. Tecnam attributes the main reason to, perhaps undoubtedly, the limit of battery technology. Tecnam states that “The proliferation of aircraft with “new” batteries would lead to unrealistic mission profiles that would quickly degrade after a few weeks of operation. Taking into account the most optimistic projections of slow charge cycles and the possible limitation of the maximum charge level per cycle, the real storage capacity would fall below 170Wh/kg, and only a few hundred flights would drive operators to replace the entire storage unit, with a dramatic increase in direct operating costs due to the reserves for battery replacement prices.” Therefore, Tecnam believes that these key factors cannot define a new aircraft development as “viable” with a target entry into service by 2026-2028 and that an aircraft with a battery pack at the end of its life would not be the best product for the market, but certainly the worst in terms of Net Present Value (NPV).
Tecnam is neither a new player in general aviation nor in electric aviation.P-Volt can be traced as far back as in 2018 when Tecnam, Rolls Royce and Rotax jointly developed the H3PS hybrid electric demonstrator airplane based on the Tecnam P2010 four-seater airplane. With dozens of EASA and FAA certifications, Tecnam is the most active General Aviation manufacturer in the world with the highest number of new type certifications in recent years. So their decision should be taken seriously. Though it’s sad to see the termination of an electric aircraft project, it’s brave and smart to face the problem and stop loss on time. We need to accept the fact that the business model and market entry point of full electric aircraft for now is very tricky due to battery restraint which, as Tecnam explained in the press release, will heavily affect the profitability and viability of the operation. Perhaps it’s a good time to read again Tecnam’s CTO Fabio Russo’s analysis last year of Eviation’s performance. Electric aircraft development is a steep and long slope so it’s natural and maybe necessary to change to a lower gear in the climb. The important thing when climbing a slope perhaps is not how fast we go, but to keep moving. As long as we are climbing, no matter how slow we are moving, we will reach the peak.
Paris Airshow will begin on 19 June and run until 25 June. As the prominent aviation trade show in the world, advanced air mobility (AAM) will of course be part of the show. As the AAM industry is going through certification and commercial operation threshold, there are quite some anticipation and some premier at the show this year.
We went through the exhibitors list to find the electric aviation exhibitors for you. There will be a dedicated area named “Paris Air Mobility”in Hall 5 where most electric and AAM aircraft will be presented. Of course there will be some other exhibitors in electric aviation especiall in supply chain domain scattering in other exhibition areas.
Here are the electric aircraft manufactures coming to present in Paris:
Aircraft at display:
Autoflight’s V1500M eVTOL (Hall 5)
Volocopter’s VoloCity eVTOL (Hall 5)
Archer’s Midnight eVTOL (Hall 5)
eHang’s 216 eVTOL (Hall 5)
Ascendance’s Atea eVTOL (Hall 5)
Lilium Jet eVTOL (cabin mockup) (Hall 5)
Eve Air Mobility eVTOL (cabin mockup) (Hall 5)
Aura Aero (B4)
Airbus (Hall 5)
Joby (Hall 5)
ZeroAvia (Hall 4)
Wisk (Boeing booth in C2)
Beyond Aero (Hall 2b)
We will bring you on-site report when the show starts. Stay tuned!
On 29 May 2023 the Chinese regulator, CAAC, published the draft of special condition for certification of the V2000CG cargo eVTOL designed by Autoflight.
According to the special condition draft, V2000CG has 2 metric ton maximum takeoff weight, 400kg paylaod, 200km range at 200kph crusing speed. Autoflight submitted airworthness application of V2000CG to CAAC last September and claims that this is the first type certificate application of cargo eVTOL at this weight level in China.
V2000CG has a lift+cruise configuration with eight propellors for lift and three propellors dedicated to cruise with two at the rear of the beam and one at the rear of cabin. Autoflight is also developing a passenger-carrying model of similar configuration with two cruise propulsions at the rear of the beam.
On 2 May 2023 Lilium N.V. (“Lilium” or the “Company”) (NASDAQ: LILM), developer of the electric ducted fan eVTOL, announced a capital raise for up to $250 million, with $100 million funded at close.
Aceville Pte. Limited, an affiliate of Tencent Holdings Limited (“Tencent”), has committed $100 millions at closing and $0.75 millions to be funded contingent on Lilium raising $0.75 millions of equity, debt or grants from certain third parties. It is worth of noting that Tecent is already the largest shareholder of Lilium with 22% shares of the company. It remains to be seen how much shares Tecent will hold of Lilium after this equity raise.
Lilium states in the press release that “This capital raise…would cover most of the estimated capital required to achieve first manned flight of the type-conforming aircraft. Once this development milestone is achieved, which is planned for the second half of 2024, Lilium expects to benefit from the contribution of substantial pre-delivery payments (PDPs) which will help fund its subsequent capital requirements.”
Berlin-based eVTOL startup NEX Aero received €3.5M ($3.8M) in the seed financing round from Heatchy Investments GmbH & Co. KG.
NEX Aero aims to revolutionize regional air mobility by developing the first hydrogen-powered long-distance eVTOL (electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing aircraft). With a range of over 500 km, their lift+cruise design eVTOL enables both vertical and conventional take-off and landing, while being one of the quietest aircrafts during hover flight.
The Chinese electric aircraft manufactuer Liaoning Ruixiang Aircraft announced today that the hydrogen powered internal combustion engine (ICE) demonstrator airplane that the company developed made the first flight on 25 March 2023 in Shenyang, China. This is China’s first such type of aircraft.
The ICE engine is a modified 2 liter automobile engine jointly developed by Ruixiang and The FAW auto company in China. The automobile engine is turbo charged and specifically developed to use hydrogen as fuel potentially for automobile use as well. The airframe is based on Ruixiang’s 4-seat full electric RX4e airplane which is undergoing certification in China.
According to the company, the demonstrator airplane has a wingspan of 13.5 meters and a length of 8.2 meters. It has 4.5kg high press hydrogen carried on board which gives the demonstrator over one hour duration at a cruising speed of 180km/h. The maximum thermal efficiency of the hydrogen internal combustion engine is greater than 43%, and the overall thermal efficiency of the power system is greater than 40%.
Ruixiang says that it began this project in 2021 and has been working with multiple Chinese entities including the FAW auto company, several universities and research institute. Ruixiang intends to use the demonstrator to further the research and application of hydrogen aviation by using hydrogen as the direct fuel source.
Ruixiang is the electric aircraft pioneer in China, designing and obtaining the Chinese regulator CAAC’s type certificate for RX1E, the two-seat full electric light sport airplane (LSA) in 2015 making the company one of the first in the world certifiying a full electric airplane. Ruixiang has been developing the four-seat full electric RX4E based on the certification and operation experience of RX1E since 2017. RX4E made the first flight in October 2021 and is currently undergoing CAAC type certification under Part 23 normal category.
Diamond Aircraft Austria and Lufthansa Aviation Training (LAT) have signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) to jointly explore and develop opportunities for a more sustainable flight training. The cooperation includes testing of the all-electric eDA40 in a real training environment, an eDA40 purchase intention to supplement the current DA40 NG fleet as well as analyses for the use of Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF).
Diamond Aircraft and LAT are both committed to the targets of the European Green Deal and the Sustainable Aviation Programme by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). With this collaboration both companies agreed on shaping a sustainable future for aviation together. eDA40 first trial phase at LAT’s Grenchen, Switzerland base is expected to take place end of 2023/beginning of 2024, after technical clearance is provided.
With the #MakeChangeFly program, the Lufthansa Group wants to lead into a sustainable future with the goal of becoming carbon-neutral by 2050 and cutting its net carbon emissions in half by 2030 compared to 2019 by continuously implementing a wide range of innovative measures.
“We have enjoyed a long and trusting partnership with Diamond Aircraft,” said Matthias Spohr, CEO Lufthansa Aviation Training. “Diamond Aircraft’s fuel-efficient DA40 and DA42 models are already operating very successfully at our flight schools in Rostock (Germany) and Grenchen (Switzerland). I am very pleased that with the signing of the LOI for the all-electric eDA40, we are now jointly opening a groundbreaking chapter in the topic of sustainability. This topic is of particular significance for our European Flight Academy, which is known for its high and globally recognized quality standards in selection and training. The testing of the all-electric eDA40 is an important step towards future pilot training in an even more environmentally friendly manner.”
Within the scope of the collaboration, the eDA40 will be tested in a real training environment at LAT’s Switzerland base in Grenchen. Results will help to further develop the e-aircraft for flight training and to explore options for a suitable operation of a mixed training fleet consisting of the eDA40 and the conventional AUSTRO jet-fuel powered DA40 NG. LAT has declared its intention to be the eDA40 launch customer for the EASA region and purchase a number of eDA40 for their flight training program to comply with the Lufthansa Group sustainability targets. More information on that will be released at a later stage. In addition, both companies will analyze and develop the use of SAF fuels for the entire Diamond piston aircraft range and jointly work on further projects such as sustainable propulsions, further operational options for trainer aircraft and synthetic flight training devices.
The Chinese eVTOL startup Autofilght claimed today that their 5-seat eVTOL prototype “Prosperity” flew 250.3km in one charge on 23 Feburary 2023 near Shanghai, breaking the previous distance record of eVTOL with over 2 metric ton maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) set by Joby’s S4 eVTOL prototype last year. In the flight video released by Autoflight, the eVTOL took off vertically, transited to horizontally cruise flight and then landed vertically.
The record-setting prototype is the 4th prototype of “Prosperity” with lift+cruise configuration, five seats (one pilot+four passengers), fully electric powered. It changed back to two pusher propellors on the tail for cruise from the single pusher unit in last prototype.
The new “Prosperity” prototype’s industrial design is directed by the famous designer Frank Stephenson who also happens to design the US eVTOL company Archer’s Maker two-seat demonstrator
Last week the Chinese civil aviation regulator CAAC published two milestone UAV rules on its website both of which have actually come effective last December but only being released to the public now. These two rules, one “administrative policy” (the overall framework) and one advisory circular (AC), set the framework for UAV certification in China including passenger-carrying pilotless UAV which could be the first such rule in the world. For the full rules (in Chinese only): http://caac.gov.cn/XXGK/XXGK/GFXWJ/202302/t20230213_217212.html
In the AC, The CAAC specifies the safety requirements for pilotless passenger UAV to be “no lower than piloted aircrafts of the same class.” but there is no specific value in the rules for safety requirement for pilotless passenger UAV like those set by EASA’s SC-VTOL. In the AC it says the value for safety requirement of passenger-carrying UAV is not specified at this moment due to lack of empirical data of such aircraft.
“This is an electric airplane suitable for daily use and training”–this is the conclusion of Willi Tacke, the publisher of e-Flight Journal, after his and the first flight of any journalist of the two-seat Elektra Trainer electric airplane designed and produced by the electric flight veteran Elektra Solar GmbH of Germany.
The first test report is published in German in e-flight-Journals sister magazine Flügel das Magazin. Click on the cover to read more.
The e-flight-journal test report in English language will be published here soon.
The Elektra Trainer is now ready for series production after obtaining the certificate from DULV the German ultralight organization. It can appeal to a wide audience with some serious flight operations to do with its two seat and 2.5 hours duration plus reserve. Its performance and capability can help justify its relatively high price tag. At the AERO 2023 scheduled for 19-22 April, the airplane will not only draw attention to itself with the DULV type certification, but also with an approval for glider towing. The publisher of e-Flight Journal and the CEO of Flying Pages Willi Tacke was the first journalist in the world to have the opportunity to fly the ElektraTrainer. The following are some teaser of the flight experience. If you want to get a closer look of the Elektra Trainer in first hand, then you need to plan a trip to AERO & e-Flight-Expo in Friedrichshafen, Germany!