Electric passenger flights from 2026?
Norway is a very cold country, where the connections by plane are used even for small journeys. The roads are often icy. Moreover, Norway is at the forefront of electric mobility and has established that all regional flights must be zero emissions by 2040.
Rolls-Royce and the Italian aircraft manufacturer Tecnam are collaborating with the first Scandinavian regional airline Widerøe on a fully electric passenger plane which should serve short-haul flights from 2026. It goes without saying that this plane could easily be fitted for private flights, being ideal for short trips and small airports.
This ambitious project is based on a Rolls-Royce and Widerøe research program on sustainable aviation and on a partnership between Rolls-Royce and Tecnam to develop the P-Volt, an electrified version of the twin-engine Tecnam P2012 Traveler. Rolls-Royce has announced that the program is expected to cover all elements of the development and delivery of a fully electric passenger aircraft that could be used in the Norwegian market from 2026.
Due to its topography, Norway uses air traffic to a large extent for regional routes and has set a target for all domestic flights to be emission-free by 2040. Rolls-Royce will provide expertise in propulsion and energy systems, while Tecnam will provide expertise in the design, manufacture and certification of aircraft. Widerøe – by its own admission Scandinavia’s largest regional airline – will ensure that all the skills and requirements of an air operator are available for entry into service in 2026.
Stein Nilsen, Managing Director of Widerøe, said: “Norway’s extensive network of airports for short take-off aircraft is ideal for zero-emission technologies. This aircraft shows how quickly new technologies can and will be developed and that we are on the right track with our goal of zero emissions by 2025. ”
Electric plane: development and delivery program
The program is designed to cover all elements of development and delivery. A corresponding electric aircraft could be used in the Norwegian market from 2026.
Andreas Aks, Strategy Director of Widerøe, adds: “We are very excited about the role of operator, but we are also modest about the challenges of bringing the world’s first zero-emission aircraft into service. Our mission is to have all the new skills, processes and procedures necessary to be a zero emission operator which will be developed and approved in parallel with the aircraft under development and certification. ”
Rob Watson, Director of Rolls-Royce Electrical, added: “Electrification will help us achieve our goal of removing carbon net from the markets we operate in by 2050. This collaboration strengthens our existing relationships with Tecnam and Widerøe that we want to study how to provide a fully electric passenger aircraft for the commuter market. It also underlines Rolls-Royce’s ambitions to be the leading supplier of all-electric and hybrid-electric propulsion and power systems for multiple aviation markets.”
Fabio Russo, R&D and Product Development Project Manager at Tecnam, said: “It is amazing to see the level of interest in the P-Volt, not only from regional airlines, but also from the companies that matter on smart mobility. The importance is great, to promote capillary links between small communities while reducing congestion on large hubs. The P-Volt, like the P2012 Traveler today, will fit perfectly into this program. We are honored and delighted with the enthusiasm with which Widerøe and our partner Rolls-Royce devote themselves to this project. ”
Solutions for the peripheral route aircraft market
The collaboration offers the opportunity to develop an interesting solution for the market for peripheral airplanes. Before the pandemic, Widerøe offered around 400 flights per day through a network of 44 airports, with 74% of flights covering distances of less than 275 km. The shortest flight times are between seven and fifteen minutes. The electric planes will keep people connected in a sustainable way and will fulfill Wideroe’s ambition to achieve its first all-electric flight by 2026. The all-electric P-Volt aircraft is based on the 11-seater Tecnam P2012. It is ideal for short take-offs and landings as well as for coastal routes in northern and western Norway.
Rolls-Royce and Widerøe announced a joint research program in 2019. The aim of the program was to assess and develop concepts for an electric aircraft that meets the Norwegian goal of having the first electrified aircraft on domestic flights scheduled by 2030 and reduce emissions by 80% on domestic flights by 2040.
Rolls-Royce has also entered into an existing strategic partnership with Tecnam to develop the Tecnam P2010 aircraft modified with the H3PS propulsion system, the first parallel hybrid electric propulsion system for general aviation, launched in May 2018 with a Rotax engine. The H3PS project was funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement No 769392. More information: https://www.tecnam.com/