MIAMI – At an event in Gothenburg today, Heart Aerospace unveiled its world-leading electric drivetrain and battery technology for the first time. This is the latest milestone in the Swedish company’s plan to develop a completely fossil fuel-free 19-seater electric regional airliner. According to eu-startups.com, the aircraft will be authorized for commercial operations by 2025.
The company, a Swedish start-up that designs and develops all-electric aircraft, says it will deliver the first ES-19 electric airliner certified for commercial flight by 2026. Heart understands that due to the pandemic and reduction of commercial flights, travelers are considering the negative effect of air travel on the environment.
In addition to a lower environmental footprint, the benefits of electric-powered aircraft include reduced sound pollution, cleaner operation and more cost-effective service. This is because electrical propulsion systems are much more powerful and consist of fewer mechanical parts.
The Right Technology at the Right Time
An aircraft only flies when the lift force equals its weight, including the weight of the energy source. Thus, for an electric-powered airplane to cover any significant distance, its batteries need to pack a lot of punch.
Before EV research and development by the likes of Tesla on the ground and Eviation, magniX, Pipistrel Ampaire, Bye Aerospace and Zunum Aero in the air, batteries did not have the energy density required to cover significant distances. However, today’s demo shows that with current battery technology, Heart Aerospace can rightfully say it has achieved just that.
Electrification will change the equation for regional air travel, according to the company. Electric aircraft are inexpensive for purchase, service and maintenance. Efficient electric motors reduce maintenance costs by 90% compared to turboprops, and intelligent electronic monitoring reduces inspection needs. Most notably, fuel price costs can be reduced by 50-75%.
As battery performance increases, Heart Aerospace is targeting short-haul air travel under 2,000 km for electrification. Globally, this constitutes 85% of departures and 43% of carbon dioxide emissions.
Established in 2018 with a vision to create green, accessible, and affordable air travel, Heart Aerospace is part of the Electric Air Travel in Sweden (ELISE) project. The latter is sponsored by the Swedish innovation agency Vinnova. Heart Aerospace is also a Y Combinator alumnus.
The company says that air travel should be incorporated into – not isolated from – cities and communities. On its website, it further states that its “zero-emission, low-noise aircraft will fly on 750m of runways, allowing new use of a large network of small airports near city centers.”
Heart Aerospace affirms the aircraft has a high market demand from eight airlines across Europe, North America, and Asia-Pacific. The report by eu-stsartups.com states that these carriers also have the interest to purchase 147 ES-19 aircraft worth approximately €1.1bn.
Statement from Heart Aerospace CEO
Anders Forslund, CEO and founder of Heart Aerospace, said, “The aviation industry is facing a two-fold problem: reconciling itself with a carbon-constrained world and coronavirus hindering passenger demand for flights (particularly long-haul). Before the pandemic, concern was already growing about the environmental impact of flying, contributing to ‘flight shaming’.
“Next, Covid-19 saw summer flights decline by 90% and Europe spent $36 billion (approx €30.7 billion) on airline bailouts. This is a reset moment, as across the board, the provision of public finance comes with the caveat that bailouts will only be offered in exchange for cutting emissions – and electric aircraft could be the most sustainable and cost-effective way to travel.”
“Sweden has committed to make all domestic flights fossil-fuel-free by 2030 and Norway is targeting all domestic flights to be 100% electric by 2040. “To achieve these goals,” says Rofslund, “we have to get to work now. The technology is here and scale is possible for short-haul flights, which account for nearly half of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions.”
“We can’t wait for progress to happen; that’s not how innovation works. Progress happens when engineers commit to achieving a collective goal that benefits humanity – which is exactly what Heart Aerospace is doing. Today’s unveiling is a testament to this ambition and I am delighted to be part of a team powering a greener future for everyone.”
In an unprecedented move, the oneworld alliance announced on September 11 that all member airlines would work together towards carbon neutrality by 2050. They will achieve this by investing in sustainable aviation fuel and more fuel-efficient aircraft.
While there was no talk about regional airlines, it seems that Heart Aerospace is paving the way for carbon-neutral air travel to be a reality for the regional market 25 years before the big airlines are able to meet that same goal.
2020 has had an unprecedented negative effect on the aviation industry, but it seems some positives will come out of it. Stay tuned to Airways for our next Innovation story about Otto’s Celera 500L aircraft.
Featured image: Heart Aerospace ES-19 aircraft side view. Photo: Heart Aerospace.