Electric Aviation Group unveils world’s first hybrid electric 70+ seater aircraft – is this the blueprint for sustainable mass air transportation in the future?
A pioneering design for a hybrid electric regional aircraft which could deliver a technical and commercial entry point for sustainable mass air transport has been unveiled and could become the blueprint for future aircraft development. The disruptive design has been created by the Electric Aviation Group (EAG), a UK-based engineering and development firm, which expects its first aircraft to be in service by 2028.
While the United Kingdom was once one of the leading nations in designing and building commercial aircraft, except for its involvement producing Airbus parts it had withdrawn from the sector. This project highlights a clear intent for its return and a solution to the ongoing challenges of decarbonisation and mass transportation.
While we continue to look at alternative fuels as a solution for aviation’s sustainability goals, many believe that a move to electric aircraft will be a future course for the industry. We are starting to see an increasing adoption of hybrid and full-electric vehicles on the road and there has been a clear industry-wide shift towards developing electrically-propelled aircraft.
There have been many next generation concepts revealed over the past few years for smaller aircraft designs to support personal transport needs. Research from global consultancy Roland Berger highlights that the cumulative number of electric aircraft developments grew steadily until 2016 but has subsequently increased more rapidly since. In fact it claims the number of electrically propelled aircraft developments grew by ~30% in 2019 and now exceeds 200, with Europe home to the largest proportion of studies.
Understandably Urban Air Taxi and general aviation concepts dominate, but scaling these projects to a level to support commercial air transport needs is more problematic both from a technological and financial aspect. There is an obvious need for a solution that meets the needs of what has been a fast-expanding commercial aviation sector.
While Covid-19 has abruptly stopped the sector’s growth it will not be terminal and those question on how we can make the industry more sustainable remain unanswered. The need for a solution is obvious and increasingly airports and airlines are becoming more involved in electric aircraft studies.
EAG believes its proposed Hybrid Electric Regional Aircraft (HERA) delivers a solution for short-haul flying. It says the aircraft will have a “whisper-quiet operation” which reduces noise pollution, an “innovative airborne battery regeneration” to minimise turn-around time, “efficient battery integration” and “thermal management of motors and power electronics”. It will have a Gear Assisted Take-Off Run (GATOR) to deliver “rapid acceleration for a quick lift-off” reducing energy requirements and a Short Take-Off-and-Landing (STOL) performance which will enable “new route opportunities affording greater profitability to operators”.