Embraer Completes First Flight Of All Electric Test Aircraft

Embraer today revealed that its first electric flight demonstrator has successfully conducted its first flights. The EMB-203 Ipanema testbed has flown from Embraer’s Gaviao Peixoto facility, allowing the manufacturer to evaluate and develop technologies for larger applications. The announcement was part of a wider ESG presentation made by the Brazilian planemaker today, which included its commitment to carbon-neutral operations by 2040.

Embraer Electric Demonstrator
Embraer’s electric aircraft has taken off. Photo: Embraer

Embraer reveals first flight of all-electric demonstrator

As the crisis of the COVID pandemic begins to subside, Embraer is turning its attention back to what was, and still is, the biggest challenge facing the industry. The Brazilian planemaker has committed to a zero-carbon future, one part of which will seek to develop alternative propulsion technologies for passenger aircraft.

Towards the end of 2020, Embraer announced a strategic partnership with EDP, a Brazilian energy company, for research into electric aircraft. At the time, the partners said the aircraft would take its first flight in 2021. Now, it has.

Embraer Electric Demonstrator
The demonstrator has flown from Gaviao Peixoto in Brazil.  Photo: Embraer

Following today’s earnings call results, Embraer undertook a presentation to outline its Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) targets for the next few decades. As part of this announcement, Embraer revealed that its electronic flight demonstrator has recently conducted its first flight, opening a period of flight test campaigns to inform the future developments of the company.

Embraer Electric Demonstrator
The successful flight will kick off a period of test flights for the aircraft. Photo: Embraer

Speaking at today’s presentation event, Luis Carlos Affonso, Embraer’s SVP of Engineering, Technology Development and Corporate Strategy, commented,

“First flights are always emotional moments in our industry. This testbed will help develop knowledge about batteries, electric motors, thermal management, electric control systems, high voltage handling and safety of flight. That will then be applied to our future programs.”

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The aircraft

The aircraft is an EMB-203 Ipanema testbed, which will conduct its test flights from Embraer’s Gaviao Peixoto, Brazil facility. Brazilian company WEG has built the electric motor, and the batteries were funded by EDP to get this aircraft off the ground.

Embraer Electric Demonstrator
It’s no E-Jet but is fundamental to the company’s development of alternative propulsion technologies. Photo: Embraer

While it’s no E-Jet, the learnings from the demonstrator will enable Embraer to develop new and innovative products for a sustainable future. Affonso noted that this type of technology might be more suited to shorter, more regional routes, which have largely been abandoned with the move to hub airports. He said,

“The smaller aircraft have disappeared. The routes were concentrated to bigger cities, leaving many communities underserved. But we believe this is about to change. Many of the new technologies like electric and hybrid electric propulsion will first be available at the lower end of the markets and new, efficient and sustainable applications and markets will appear. The all electric and carbon neutral is addressing an important pain point of several communities around the globe.”

Embraer Completes First Flight Of All Electric Test Aircraft
Electric is seen as having great potential for the smaller, short-range end of the market. Photo: Embraer

Affonso’s presentation highlighted the applicability of technologies for Embraer’s range of aircraft. While SAF would be a goal across the fleet, the lower end of the commercial market is seen as a highlight for electric propulsion, hybrid for mid-sized, mid-range planes, and hydrogen for its largest aircraft.

Ambitious targets for zero emissions

Overarching its ESG presentation today was Embraer’s commitment to a more sustainable future. The company announced ambitious targets for the future, including committing to carbon-neutral operations by 2040. As well as environmental goals, the company is working towards a more inclusive workplace for all its employees.

Embraer Electric Demonstrator
The all-electric demonstrator is just one part of Embraer’s ambitious ESG goals. Photo: Embraer

The company plans to work towards the aviation industry’s goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 through a range of activities. These will include R&D into electrification, hybrid technologies, sustainable aviation fuel (SF), and other alternatives. Embraer has also committed to offsetting any residual carbon emissions that cannot be reduced through other means.

Francisco Gomes Neto, President and CEO of Embraer, commented,

“At Embraer, we recognize the urgency of the climate crisis, and we are fully committed to a more sustainable future. We are stepping up our efforts to minimize our carbon footprint by remaining dedicated to innovating solutions that have a broader impact for our customers, our local communities, and our aircraft.

“ESG is at the heart of Embraer’s purpose and that´s why we´ve included ESG as one of the pillars in our strategic plan ‘Fit for Growth’, aligning business strategy with social responsibility and environmental practices.”

Among the goals are key milestones, including beginning the use of SAF this year. By 2030, all Embraer’s energy will come from sustainable sources, and all its growth from 2022 onwards will be carbon neutral. From its 2018 baseline, its net carbon emissions will be reduced by 50%.

Focus on SAF, eVTOL

Alongside this, the company plans to work with suppliers to ensure its current aircraft are all compatible with the use of 100% sustainable aviation fuel. It will also actively work with the supply chain to expand global SAF production.

Just today, Embraer announced that it will cooperate with AvFuel Corporation to bring Neste MY Sustainable Aviation FuelTM (SAF) to Melbourne Orlando International Airport. Its Executive Jets arm, headquartered there, will become the company’s first industrial facility to regularly use sustainable fuel, reinforcing its commitment to the environment.

Emrbaer business aviation Neste SAF
Melbourne, Orlando will see SAF used on a regular basis. Photo: Embraer

Alongside this, Embraer is actively working to bring its ‘EVE’ eVTOL aircraft to the market. The firm recently partners with Kenya Airways to provide easier access to urban areas. Kenya Airways’ subsidiary Fahari signed an MoU with Embraer’s Eve Urban Air Mobility Solutions to advance air mobility in the region.

Kenya Airways EVE
Fahari has signed an MoU with EVE. Photo: Embraer

Speaking about EVE, Affonso commented,

“With Eve, we are reimagining the future of urban air mobility. We will improve the lives of millions of people in congested areas around the globe with a 100% electric and quiet solution. It goes without saying, this is a zero emissions solution.

“This vehicle is being designed with distributed propulsion, fly by wire technology, very high safety standards and high utilization in mind. In collaboration with our subsidiary ATEC, Eve will develop the air traffic control system dedicated to urban air mobility, collaborating to create an efficient UAM ecosystem. Once again, given our end to end, proven track record in aviation, we believe we are very well positioned to be among the few that will succeed in this market.”

While most of the aviation world is still licking its wounds from the COVID crisis, Embraer is keenly looking to the future. Its strong commitment to sustainability is positioning it as a role model for the future, with a clear pathway to achieving its ambitious goals. As Affonso concluded, “these are indeed very exciting times.”