Six-seater, battery-electric plane flew 60 nautical miles
A battery-electric airplane took flight in the United Kingdom on Monday, which was touted as the UK’s first commercial-scale electric flight.
The Piper M350 six-seater propeller plane took off from Cranfield Airport near Milton Keynes and flew a round trip of roughly 60 nautical miles. The powertrain was provided by ZeroAvia, a US company that aims to enable zero-emissions air travel at scale.
For the test flight, engineers replaced the Piper M350’s conventional powertrain with electric motors, hydrogen fuel cells and gas storage. According to ZeroAvia, its hydrogen fuel cell powertrain offers the same zero-emissions potential of batteries but with a greater energy-to-weight ratio, making it viable for commercial operations at a much larger scale and in a shorter time frame. The company believes its powertrain will also provide lower operating costs compared to battery cycling in high-utilization regional aircraft.
Val Miftakhov, ZeroAvia’s founder and CEO, said in a statement on Tuesday that the flight was “the latest in a series of milestones that moves the possibility of zero emission flight closer to reality.”
“We all want the aviation industry to come back after the pandemic on a firm footing to be able to move to a net zero future, with a green recovery,” Miftakhov added. “That will not be possible without realistic, commercial options for zero emission flight, something we will bring to market as early as 2023.”
The company plans to conduct longer-distance hydrogen-electric test flights later this summer as part of the HyFlyer project, which will culminate in a 250-300 nautical mile flight from the Orkney Islands in Scotland.
HyFlyer is headed by ZeroAvia with partners Intelligent Energy and the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC). The project aims “to decarbonise medium range small passenger aircraft by demonstrating powertrain technology to replace conventional piston engines in propeller aircraft.”