UK-based engineering and development company Electric Aviation Group (EAG) revealed a new design for a Hybrid Electric Regional Aircraft (HERA) on Monday. The firm intends for the first of the potentially groundbreaking 70+ seater aircraft to be in service by 2028.
Sustainable mass air transport
Electric flight or, at the very least hybrid aircraft, has been touted as one of the most realistic potentially industry-changing inventions as aviation grapples with sustainability issues. In a move called “a technical and commercial entry point for sustainable mass air transport,” EAG today unveiled its 70+ seater regional hybrid aircraft.
“Significant investments have been raised to develop sub-19 seat hybrid and all-electric aircraft, which we believe is the wrong strategy. These small planes cannot meet the demands of mass air transportation or the requirements of decarbonisation,” Kamran Iqbal, founder and CEO at EAG, said in a statement seen by Simple Flying.
“Our design is for an aircraft that will initially offer 800 nautical miles range at launch in 2028, and which will be able to carry over 70 people,” he continued.
The key features of the 70+ seater HERA design include significant noise pollution reduction, thermal management of motors and power electronics, as well as airborne battery regeneration to minimize turnaround times.
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It also features Gear Assisted Take-Off Run (GATOR) for a swift lift-off reducing energy requirements. Furthermore, it has a Short Take-Off-and-Landing (STOL) performance, which enhances profitability for operators, as well as provides them with new route opportunities.
EAG is also considering another customer segment. The cabin of the HERA will have a flexible design, allowing for swift changes between transporting passengers and cargo. Its regional airport size and suitability can furthermore eliminate one extra logistics leg for private sector cargo operators.
The HERA is also designed to be able to accommodate any alternative energy sources available before the turn of the decade. Furthermore, it will retain the flexibility to transform into an all-electric or carbon-neutral aircraft as battery density improves or other technologies become financially viable.
EAG has yet to provide exact details of the planned range, speed, or CO2 emissions of the HERA.
Post-Brexit Bristol jobs
EAG has already developed and filed for 25 different patents for the aircraft, which will be produced in Bristol. The company believes that the new venture could create as many as 25,000 jobs.
“We expect this to be a great example of British design, engineering and build,” Mr Iqbal said. “Not only will the development of the HERA help the Department of Transport accelerate its ‘Jet Zero’ carbon reduction goals, it will also help to create much needed job opportunities in the aerospace, manufacturing, engineering and services industries post-Brexit.”
Other potential disruptors
EAG’s aircraft is not the only viable candidate for hybrid-flight in the coming decade. In May this year, French aviation start-up VoltAero revealed the design for its Cassio2, a nine-seat hybrid aircraft with a cruising speed of 230 mph. The year before, Californian Ampaire successfully flew their hybrid modeled on a Cessna 337 Skymaster.
Earlier this week, #VoltAero revealed the production configuration for its revolutionary #Cassio aircraft – which utilizes the company’s hybrid-electric power module. Initial deliveries are targeted for the end of 2022. Read the press release: https://t.co/1Yb5E9a5aZ pic.twitter.com/NjYSoQ98Ko
— VoltAero (@VoltAero) May 8, 2020
Of course, nine seats would not be enough to disrupt the aviation industry. However, also in 2019, at the Airbus Innovation Days in Toulouse, SAS and Airbus announced that they would launch a mutual research project for a hybrid and electric aircraft ecosystem to continue throughout the end of 2020.
Airbus had already been working on an electric engine for its planes, with a product known as the E-Fan X. The manufacturer has stated it wants to develop the world’s first hybrid airliner, as a version of its A320neo.
Could EAG’s HERA become the first hybrid scheduled passenger flight to Heathrow and claim the airport’s prize – the waiving of landing fees for an entire year? Should the timeline of having the first aircraft in service by 2028, this could well be the case.