DALLAS — Swedish start-up Heart Aerospace is one of the few out there paving the way to produce an electric aircraft that could actually fit into the airline commuter market.
The journey that began in 2018 is currently at the stage of securing suppliers to put the airplane’s anatomy together. “I really believe in this opportunity,” states Claudio Camelier, Head of Marketing at Heat Aerospace, to Airways.
Heart’s original plan was to launch the so-called ES-19, which was upgraded to the ES-30, capable of seating 30 passengers with a claimed range of up to 200km all electric and up to 400km hybrid. It’s indeed a hybrid bird that has two turbogenerators that will run on SAF to propel the airplane beyond its all-electric range. United Airlines (UA) and Air Canada (AC) are major players, along with several others that have committed to the type.
SG: Where are you as of today? What phase?
CC: We were founded in 2018 as part of an R&D program with the objective of decarbonizing regional flights in Sweden. Today, we have a strong group of investors who are supporting the company, and we have over 200 employees working here, the majority of whom are engineers. We are building a company, not just an aircraft. We are growing rapidly.
For the ES-30, we completed the conceptual design phase of the airplane at the end of last year. At the moment, we’re in the preliminary design phase. It is during this phase that we make the selection of the various suppliers and finalize the architecture of the system. We wish to complete this phase next year and move on to the detailed design phase, where parts are produced and come together.
“Suppliers are already coming on board. BAE Systems for the battery, Crane for the electrical systems, Garmin for the avionics, and more to be announced.”
Would that mean that after the design phase, you would have the first prototype ready for a first flight?
In 2025, we will build the parts for the airplane for the first flight in 2026, and that will be followed by two years of flight testing and certification in 2028. In our vision, we believe there is a strong opportunity for an electric regional airplane before the end of this decade. The following decade will see a large production of these airplanes.
Would you see Eviation’s Alice as a competitor?
The Alice is an interesting airplane. They’ve accomplished a lot with their first flight, but they are addressing more of the ‘on-demand’ flights; we are addressing the airline market—the low-end, regional aviation.
“In the beginning, we will have just one variant, but we are here for the long term. We do not have just one airplane. We will definitely have a family of products in the future.“
The controversial topic – payload to range. What can you compromise on? Where to get what?
The ES-30 is a hybrid electric airplane, and we have set limits to the battery packs on board – we can’t add more batteries by removing passengers. In pure electric mode, we don’t get a significant range increment with fewer passengers; of course, the airplane gets lighter and has less drag, but we are not able to add more energy. So the range increase is limited. On conventional airplanes, you’d reduce passengers and increase fuel to fly farther.
Hybrid mode is where we get the benefit. If we reduce the number of passengers, and add more fuel (SAF), we can fly further.
“200km in all-electric and 400km in hybrid with full load. If we reduce the passenger count, we can stretch the hybrid range to 800km.“
And what if we lowered the passenger count from 25 down to 20? Could you hit 1000km?
We can reach 1000km on the ferry range, and at one point we will hit the limit of fuel capacity.
What’s the swap like from all-electric to hybrid?
The configuration of the airplane is what’s called a series hybrid. We have four electric motors that run on electricity, primarily from the batteries, and the hybrid system is the reserve system composed of two turbogenerators. When they are switched on, they provide electricity and complement the power provided by the batteries.
So in short sectors, that hybrid system will not be utilized. The airplane taxis, takes off, cruises, and lands all on pure electric battery power (emission-free) under 200 km.
Beyond 200km, the reserve hybrid is used in certain portions of the flight. Our intention is that airlines will still taxi, take off, and land on battery power, as this ensures no emissions and low noise in and out of the airport environment.
What if the pilot wants to initiate a Go-Around?
The batteries will have the power to facilitate a go-around. After that go-around, the hybrid mode will be switched on, either to hold or fly to an alternate. Our reserves will be 45 minutes plus a 100-NM alternate.
Battery Technology is one that needs to work in your Favor. Comment? At this moment, the battery you require doesn’t exist. Comment?
Of course, the key enabler for the project. We selected BAE Systems as the battery pack supplier. You also need to think about the cells in the battery, and for those cells, we have not yet disclosed a supplier.
We work with BAE constantly on the roadmap of battery evolution. Today, if BAE provided us with a battery, we would not be able to fly 200 km. But assuming that the airplane will be certified in 2028, we do projections with BAE and the cell manufacturer on where the batteries will be at that stage, and that leaves us at 200 km.
Featured image: Heart Aerospace