16 April 2024

GreenAir News

Reporting on aviation and the environment

Heart Aerospace switches its 19-seat electric aircraft to a 30-seat version with reserve-hybrid power

Swedish electric aircraft pioneer Heart Aerospace has ditched its initial 19-seat ES-19 design in favour of an all-new 30-seat version with increased range and capacity. The ES-30 features a reserve-hybrid engine powered by sustainable aviation fuel, to provide extra energy or extended range without relying solely on battery power. Existing ES-19 customers United Airlines and Mesa Air Group have upgraded their 200 orders and 100 options to the larger ES-30, while Air Canada has announced purchase orders for 30 and Swedish aircraft leasing company Rockton has signed letters of intent for another 40. As well, Air Canada and the veteran Swedish aerospace company Saab have become minority shareholders in Heart, each investing $5 million. In the US, e-aircraft company Eviation has secured an LOI from Miami’s Global Crossing Airlines Group for 50 nine-seat Alice electric aircraft, whose prototype is set to make its maiden flight next month. Meanwhile, a study by Distrelec has identified Nordic routes with the highest potential for carbon emission reductions from electric flights.

The Heart ES-30 will feature three-abreast seating, a galley and a lavatory, as well as a large external baggage and cargo compartment, exploiting improved zero-emission propulsion technologies to offer higher payloads and longer-range missions than previously anticipated for the first generation of electric commuter craft. It will offer a fully-electric range of 200 kilometres, an extended range of 400 kilometres with 30 passengers, and the ability to fly as far as 800 kilometres with 25 passengers.

“The ES-30 is an electric airplane that the industry can actually use,” said Anders Forslund, founder and CEO of Heart Aerospace, highlighting the greater utility of the larger variant, which will be assembled in Gothenburg, Sweden. “We have designed a cost-effective airplane that allows airlines to deliver good service on a wide range of routes. With the ES-30 we can start cutting emissions from air travel well before the end of this decade, and the response from the market has been fantastic.”

As well as being a Heart Aerospace customer, United Airlines is also an investor. “From the beginning, Heart and United have been on the same page with an acute focus on safety, reliability and sustainability,” said United CEO Scott Kirby. “Heart’s exciting new design, which includes expanded passenger capacity from 19 to 30 seats, and a state-of-the-art reserve-hybrid engine, is the type of revolutionary thinking that will bring true innovation to aviation.”

Michael Rousseau, CEO of new customer and investor Air Canada, added: “We have been working hard with much success to reduce our footprint, but we know that meeting our net zero emissions goals will require new technology such as the ES-30.”

Saab’s new CEO Micael Johansson said his company’s investment in Heart “underlines our commitment to innovative technology and solutions for sustainable aviation. Heart is a pioneer within commercial electric aviation and we look forward to contributing to the future of aviation with our experience of developing solutions at the forefront of technology.” 

Other investors in Heart Aerospace include Breakthrough Energy Ventures, EQT Ventures, European Investment Council, Lower Carbon Capital, Mesa Air Group and United Airlines Ventures.

In addition to firm orders for the new aircraft and the letter of intent from Rockton, Heart Aerospace said many operators that previously signed LOIs for the ES-19 had now upgraded to the ES-30, among them Braathens Regional Airlines, Icelandair, SAS and New Zealand’s Sounds Air. There are now 96 LOIs for the ES-30, which is expected to enter commercial service in 2028 as a zero-emission replacement for existing fossil-fuelled aircraft or to accommodate regional growth.

Its launch coincides with a soaring and competing trend to retrofit older commuter planes with new electric or hydrogen propulsion systems, for which significant orders have been secured by start-ups including ZeroAvia and Universal Hydrogen, both well-backed by major industry players and venture capital investors.

In another electric aircraft development, Miami-based Global Crossing Airlines Group, trading as GlobalX, has signed a letter of intent to acquire 50 all-electric Alice aircraft from US-based Eviation, for delivery from 2027. The inaugural test flight of the Alice prototype is expected to occur next month.

“We plan to offer the aircraft to our cruise line, tour operators, leisure travel providers and business clients with a need for short-haul charter flights across Florida,” said GlobalX CEO Ed Wegel. “The Alice aircraft will allow us to offer sustainable regional flights to and from major markets and is the first step in our initiative to be a zero-carbon emissions airline by 2050.” As well as flights within Florida, GlobalX says the nine-seat aircraft will open opportunities for new passenger routes in the Bahamas and the Caribbean. The company is also evaluating a cargo version of the aircraft, which has also been ordered by freight giant DHL.

In Europe, the electronics and automation group Distrelec has completed a study of flights operating in Nordic countries to identify which markets have the most potential for electric-powered flights. It identified routes in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland and Finland, which, if converted to zero emission aircraft, could eliminate a combined total of more than 61,000 tonnes of carbon emissions per month, equivalent to 773 aircraft each with a maximum take-off weight of 79,000 kilograms – roughly equivalent to an Airbus A320neo.

The study found that Norway had the greatest potential to reduce flight carbon emissions, with up to 29,038 tonnes likely to be eliminated each month through deployment of electric aircraft, followed by Sweden with 17,260 tonnes, Finland with 6,264, Denmark with 4,177, Greenland with 2,390, and Iceland with 1,994.

Norway’s Oslo-Trondheim air route was identified by Distrelec as the biggest contributor to aircraft carbon emissions in the surveyed markets, with 709 monthly flights averaging 58 kilograms per passenger, while Finland’s Helsinki-Oulu route, while less flown with an average 264 monthly departures, produced the highest CO2 emissions per passenger, averaging 72 kilograms.

The study also assessed 10 regional international routes originating in Nordic countries, which it estimated produced a collective 17,100.5 tonnes of CO2 per month, or 205,206 annually, the equivalent of 2,597 aircraft with a 79,000-kilogram maximum take-off weight.

Image: Heart Aerospace ES-30 in Air Canada livery

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