With new contracts, partnerships and flight tests spanning multiple countries and companies, efforts are advancing to develop electric conventional takeoff and landing (eCTOL) and electric short takeoff and landing (eSTOL) aircraft for advanced air mobility (AAM) applications.
ZeroAvia Reveals Commercial, Tech Advances
In a purchase agreement signed on June 20 at the Paris Air Show, Monte Aircraft Leasing confirmed its pre-existing memorandum of understanding for up to 100 ZeroAvia ZA600 hydrogen-electric engines to retrofit 9–19 seat aircraft. The deal, which was first announced in June 2022, represents the first confirmed build slots for the ZA600, a milestone for ZeroAvia (see “Electric CTOL/STOL News, Vertiflite, July/Aug 2022). Then, on June 21, ZeroAvia announced that it would provide Green Aerolease with ZA600 engines to retrofit turboprop aircraft. The French lessor will provide to its customers, including the French airline Finistair, which currently flies Cessna 208 Caravans on its routes from Brittany. ZeroAvia will provide 250 hydrogen-electric ZA2000 engines to Air Cahana, a Los Angeles-based startup airline, the two companies announced on June 22. ZeroAvia signed the agreement at the Paris Air Show with Flyshare, Inc., which will be doing business as Air Cahana.
On Aug. 10, ZeroAvia announced a compressor designed and tested to meet the requirements of hydrogen fuel-cell propulsion units. In a statement, the company called it the “world’s first” such compressor for fuel cell-based aviation propulsion systems.
Safran to Power Electra Aircraft
In an agreement signed June 21 at the Paris Air Show, Safran Helicopter Engines will provide a 600 kW electric turbogenerator propulsion system for Electra’s nine-passenger eSTOL production aircraft. Safran will use its Arrano turboshaft engine (which powers the Airbus H160) as the basis for the system and incorporate two GENeUS electrical generators from Safran Electrical & Power. “Electra has carefully studied aircraft electrification and we believe that hybrid propulsion is key to providing emissions and cost reductions while preserving useful payloads, ranges, and speeds for our customers,” said Electra Vice President and General Manager James “JP” Stewart in a statement. Earlier in the month, Electra unveiled its two-seat EL-2 “Goldfinch” full-scale demonstrator, which it intends to use to inform the development of the company’s nine-passenger production aircraft (see “Electric CTOL/STOL News,” Vertiflite, July/Aug 2023).
NASA Sunsets the X-57
NASA announced on June 28 that it would conclude activities related to the X-57 Maxwell electric aircraft by the end of September. Although NASA had largely completed the development of the X-57, the space agency said in a statement on its website, it would end work on the X-57 without conducting the first flight. The project will officially conclude some months after September following the release of several technical publications by members of the team. Despite having ended short of flying, the primary goal of the project, NASA writes, “was to provide knowledge about the aircraft’s electric-propulsion-focused design and airworthiness process with regulators,” not the development of a prototype aircraft. NASA cited its achievements in improving battery technology and cruise motor controllers as evidence of the success of the project.
NASA launched the X-57 project in 2016 and, by working with partners like Empirical Systems Aerospace (ESAero) and Electric Power Systems, sought to convert an Italian Tecnam P2006T to flying on an electric propulsion system (see “NASA’s LA-8: Generating Public eVTOL Data,” Vertiflite, July/Aug 2022). The X-57 project team has provided “foundational information to industry through lessons learned, and we’re seeing the benefits borne out by American commercial aviation companies that are aiming to change the way we fly,” said Brad Flick, Director of NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in a statement.
Maiden Flight of Diamond eDA40
Diamond Aircraft Austria announced on July 26 that its eDA40 electric trainer completed its maiden flight some days earlier, on July 20. The flight occurred in Wiener Neustadt, Austria, Diamond’s headquarters. “The aircraft performed outstandingly well during its maiden flight and not only met but exceeded all our expectations,” said Liqun “Frank” Zhang, CEO of Diamond Aircraft Austria. A derivative of the four-seat DA40, the two-seat eDA40 features a Safran Electrical & Power ENGINeUS 100 electric motor and an energy storage and fast charging capability from Electric Power Systems. Earlier this year, Lufthansa announced that it would become the launch customer for the eDA40 trainer. Diamond expects that the eDA40 will become the first EASA/FAA Part 23-certified electric aircraft, the company said in a press release.
Amprius Reveals Lithium-ion Battery
On Aug. 3, Amprius announced the development of a new high-energy lithium-ion battery. The battery achieves a “discharge rate of 10C while delivering 400 Wh/kg energy density,” the Fremont, California-based company said in a press release. The cell is designed with the eVTOL and UAV industries in particular and could extend the range of an aircraft by 50% while increasing payload capacity. “Our new cell delivers impressive specific power and energy density performance, approximately 200% higher than traditional graphite cells, while achieving a 10C discharge rate, significantly expanding application possibilities and driving cost-effectiveness,” said Amprius CEO Dr. Kang Sun in a statement. The cell is also reportedly capable of reaching an 80% charge in approximately six minutes or less, according to the company. Customers will be able to access the cell by the end of this year.
Eviation Outsources Alice Design
Eviation announced on Aug. 2 that it had selected TLG Aerospace to design the production version of its all-electric Alice commuter airplane. TLG, a Seattle-based engineering company, will also assist Eviation in securing a type certification for the aircraft from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The collaboration with TLG allows Eviation to “complete the design of the production version of the aircraft, a significant step on Alice’s path to certification,” said Eviation CEO Gregory Davis in a statement. Eviation completed the maiden flight of a prototype of the nine-passenger Alice on Sept. 27, 2022 (see “Electric CTOL/STOL News,” Vertiflite, Nov/Dec 2022). The Arlington, Washington-based company developed the aircraft as a clean-sheet design with two magni650 electric engines. Eviation is now building three improved prototypes and may not fly the original Alice again.
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