Air Canada has announced that it has invested in Heart Aerospace, an electric start-up airline, and is ordering 30 units of a new version of its first electric aircraft.
Battery technology has improved enough that short-range commercial aircraft begin to make sense.
Several start-ups are making viable electric planes, and some are starting to get the attention of major airlines.
Heart Aerospace is one of those startups.
We reported on the Sweden-based startup last year when it was a huge hit Unveiled ES-19It is a 19-seater electric aircraft intended for short flights. The ES-19 was supposed to have a range of 250 miles (400 km), but the range is commercially viable for short-haul flights with 19 passengers.
Upon unveiling the aircraft last year, Heart Aerospace also announced that it had secured investments from important partners: United Airlines Ventures (UAV), Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a Bill Gates investment vehicle, and Mesa Airlines.
At the time, United and MESA announced that they had placed an order for 100 ES-19 electric planes and that they had an option to buy another 100 planes.
Now a year later, Heart Aerospace has decided to replace the ES-19 with the new ES-30, a 30-passenger electric aircraft.
The company announced in a press release:
The new aircraft design, called the ES-30, is a regional electric aircraft with a capacity of 30 passengers and replaces the company’s previous 19-seat design, the ES-19. It is powered by battery-powered electric motors, allowing the aircraft to operate with zero emissions and low noise.
The change appears to have been prompted by Heart’s airline partners who have all already said they are updating their orders to the new version of the aircraft.
Heart Aerospace has detailed the interior configuration of the new ES-30:
The ES-30 has comfortable seating in the three-seater flat-floor cabin and includes a kitchen and toilet. It will add storage containers and overhead bins to the larger outer baggage and cargo compartment and provide airlines with network flexibility.
The company is associated with battery technology. When I got out of stealth mode last year, I thought battery technology would enable them to have a commercially viable 19-passenger electric aircraft with a range of 250 miles (400 km) by 2026.
Now the larger, 30-passenger plane will have a much shorter electric range of 125 miles (200 km), but will have a standby hybrid configuration, consisting of two turboprops, to get the original 250 miles (400 km). range and standby power requirements.
Standby hybrid turbogenerators are a new technology developed by companies including Honeywell and Rolls-Royce that enables aircraft to have electric propulsion powered by jet fuel.
Heart Aerospace still aims to have its planes run mostly on batteries and expects range to improve with battery technology.
The new aircraft is now planned for commercial flights in 2028.
Besides the new ES-30 that replaced the E19, Heart Aerospace announced that it has included other important partners in its project.
Air Canada and Saab have each invested $5 million in Heart Aerospace.
Michael Russo, President and CEO of Air Canada, commented on the announcement:
Air Canada is pleased to partner with Heart Aerospace to develop this revolutionary aircraft. We’ve worked hard with a lot of success to reduce our footprint, but we know that achieving our net emissions goals will require new technology like the ES-30. We have every confidence that the team at Heart Aerospace have the expertise to deliver on the ES-30’s promise of a cleaner, greener aviation future.
In addition to its investment, Air Canada has also placed an order for 30 ES-30 aircraft.
The company has now confirmed that on top of both United and Air Canada, Northern airlines Brathes Regional Airlines (BRA), Iceland Air, SAS, and New Zealand’s Sounds Air have placed orders for their electric planes.
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