Rolls-Royce is working with Scandinavian regional airline Widerøe to develop an all-electric passenger aircraft for the commuter market. The engine manufacturer hopes to bring this vehicle to service as soon as 2026.
An all-electric aircraft for Norway
Despite posting a significant loss for 2020, Rolls-Royce is keenly eyeing future developments and how it can contribute to the sustainability of the future aviation market. Following on from its existing partnership with Tecnam on the all-electric P-Volt aircraft, the engine maker has announced a new project with Norway’s Widerøe to bring to market an all-electric commuter sized aircraft, ready for revenue service by 2026.
Speaking in a statement today, Stein Nilsen, Chief Executive of Widerøe, commented,
“Norway’s extensive network of short take-off and landing airports is ideal for zero emissions technologies. This aircraft shows how quickly new technology can and will be developed, and that we are on track with our ambition of flying with zero emissions around 2025.”
Indeed, Norway’s unique topography lends itself to more flying than many other countries around the world. Many of Widerøe’s routes are short, and low demand, but nevertheless are crucial to keeping remote communities connected. Pre-COVID, 74% of Widerøe’s 400 daily flights were under 275 km (170 miles) in length.
Regional aviation is a must in this region, and Norway has set itself the ambitious goal of achieving zero emissions on domestic flights by the year 2040. The collaboration between the regional airline and Rolls-Royce along with Tecnam could help ensure this goal is met. Rob Watson, Director – Rolls-Royce Electrical, said,
“Electrification will help us deliver our ambition to enable the markets in which we operate achieve net zero carbon by 2050. This collaboration strengthens our existing relationships with Tecnam and Widerøe as we look to explore what is needed to deliver an all-electric passenger aircraft for the commuter market. It also demonstrates Rolls-Royce’s ambitions to be the leading supplier of all-electric and hybrid electric propulsion and power systems across multiple aviation markets.”
What will the program achieve?
Today’s announcement builds on the existing partnership between Rolls-Royce and Widerøe, which was announced back in 2019. That program aimed to develop electric aircraft concepts and to ensure Norway had the first electrified aircraft actively in domestic scheduled service by 2030.
The new program will cover all elements of developing a commuter sized aircraft powered completely by electricity. Rolls-Royce and Tecnam are already halfway there, with their all-electric P-Volt aircraft project, which is based on the Tecnam P2012 Traveller aircraft and seats 11 passengers.
Fabio Russo, Chief Project R&D and Product Development at Tecnam, commented,
“It is incredible to see the interest around the P-Volt, not only coming from regional airlines, but also from smart mobility-based companies. This last year has demonstrated the importance of promoting capillary connections between small communities, while reducing the congestion of the main hubs. The P-Volt, like the P2012 Traveller today, will perfectly fit the scope of this programme. We are honoured and pleased to see the level of enthusiasm Widerøe and our partner Rolls-Royce are dedicating to this project.”
As a three way team, it sounds like a match made in heaven. Tecnam’s aircraft design and expertise in manufacturing and certification will be matched by Rolls-Royce’s extensive experience in propulsion and power systems. Widerøe, of course, will bring the competence of an airline operator, setting the project on a path to entry into service by 2026.