Swedish startup Heart Aerospace has built the world’s first electric airplane. The company has already tested a scale model of a 19-seat electric commuter plane, which attracted interest from several airlines, as reported by Reuters. In July 2021, United Airlines, in association with regional partner Mesa Airlines, announced the purchase of 200 ES-19, which is the 19-seat version. The aircraft is expected to enter service in 2026, two years ahead of the ES-30.
In September of this year, Air Canada ordered 30 ES-30 electric-hybrid regional aircraft with a range of up to 800 km. Under the purchase agreement, Air Canada also acquired a US$5 million equity stake in Heart Aerospace.
We have designed a cost-efficient airplane that allows airlines to deliver good service on a wide range of routes.Anders Forslund, CEO of Heart Aerospace
The aircraft will fly on battery power, generating zero emissions and yielding significant operational benefits. The introduction of the revolutionary aircraft will help the airline reach the goal of net zero emissions by 2050, said Air Canada CEO Michael Rousseau.
The ES-30 is designed for short routes currently flown by conventional turbo-prop planes and will have a fully electric range of 200km, which can be extended to 400km on hybrid power. If payload is cut to 25 people, range rises to 800km, all with normal safety reserves.
With level floor three-abreast seating, overhead cabin luggage bins, a galley and a lavatory the interior will resemble larger airliners. As well as cabin stowage, it will feature a large external cargo baggage and cargo compartment.
In April, Air Canada operated four flights from San Francisco to its Canadian bases in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Montreal using SAF, sourced from oil refining company Neste.
Several other airlines were also interested in Heart Aerospace, such as New Zealand’s Sounds Air, which said it would have “at least three” ES-19s by 2026. Finnair, Sweden’s BRA airline, Norway-based Wideroe, Air Greenland, Quebec-based Pascan, California’s Quantum Air, UK newcomer CityClipper and Scandinavian Airlines have signed letters of intent for the aircraft, AIN Online reported. In addition to the orders already placed, letters of intent have been placed for 96 further ES-30s from major airlines including Scandinavian Airlines and Icelandair.
Interest in electric aircraft comes as the industry continues to move toward greener operations, with global airlines and aviation regulators pushing for net-zero emissions by 2050. On September 8th, United announced an order for 200 Embraer Eve electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL), while American Airlines placed an order for VX4 eVTOLs from Vertical Aerospace in July. Delta Air Lines is the only major U.S. airline not investing in an electric aircraft.
“We are thrilled to have two such strong partners as Saab and Air Canada join our mission to electrify regional air travel,” said Anders Forslund, founder and CEO of Heart Aerospace. “Air Canada is a strategically important partner with one of the world’s largest networks operated by regional turboprops.”
Because its four engines will be electric, the ES-30 will be much quieter than an equivalent propeller driven plane and Heart says the electric engines will be much cheaper to maintain than their fossil fuel counterparts.
“The ES-30 is an electric airplane that the industry can actually use,” said Forslund. “We have designed a cost-efficient airplane that allows airlines to deliver good service on a wide range of routes. With the ES-30 we can start cutting emissions from air travel well before the end of this decade and the response from the market has been fantastic.” At shorter ranges the ES-30 will generate zero emissions but even in hybrid mode it will create half the CO2 of a conventional turboprop airliner.
Although the plane’s propellers will be driven by electric motors, it will carry two turbo generators powered by sustainable aviation fuel, which will guarantee that the aircraft can meet airline standards for reserve power in the event of having to divert to another airport.
According to the World Economic Forum, the largest electric powered plane to take to the skies is the single engine 14-seat Magnix eCaravan, an all-electric version of the Cessna Grand Caravan 208B utility plane, which had its first flight in May 2020.
Magnix’s electric motors also power the Eviation Alice, a nine seater all-electric commuter plane, which made a successful maiden flight in September 2022. Wright Electric’s Spirit is a 100-seat electric conversion of the BAe-146 regional jetliner. The company says it will be capable of flying routes of one hour and be ready to enter service in 2026.