Electric aviation company Ampaire is to head up a consortium to demonstrate the feasibility and advantages of regional electric aviation transport.

The group’s 2ZERO (Towards Zero Emissions in Regional Aircraft Operations) programme will include demonstration flights of Ampaire’s six-seat Electric EEL aircraft, and, in a later phase, a 19-seat Eco Otter SX, hybrid-electric upgrade of the workhorse Twin Otter commuter aircraft. The testbed aircraft will be used to develop and evaluate requirements for a fully integrated electric aviation infrastructure.

Consortium partners include Rolls-Royce Electrical, University of Nottingham, Loganair Ltd, Exeter and Devon Airports Ltd, Cornwall Airport Ltd, Heart of the Southwest Local Enterprise Partnership (HotSWLEP), and UK Power Network Services.

The team has received a share of £30 million from the Future Flight Challenge for its 2ZERO proposal to demonstrate hybrid-electric aircraft on regional routes in the South West of the UK. The project is funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

Whole system approach to hybrid-electric aircraft technology

2ZERO takes a whole aviation systems approach to integrate hybrid-electric aircraft technology with existing airport and airline operations for rapid adoption of sustainable air travel within a new, net-zero aviation system.

The UK Government aims to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, with electric aviation making a substantial contribution on domestic routes. One of the objectives of the 2ZERO programme is to model and simulate a point-to-point (PTP) route system for regional flights using efficient hybrid-electric aircraft, improving regional services and providing more time- and energy-efficient travel options versus traditional hub-and-spoke systems.

Susan Ying, Ampaire Senior Vice President for Global Partnerships said:“For electric aviation to become commonplace, and play a significant role in reducing greenhouse gases, we need to look at not only electric aircraft but the entire ecosystem to support electric aviation. That will be a key aim of the 2ZERO programme.”

Project could transform regional air travel

“We are excited to be involved in Project 2ZERO, which demonstrates our commitment to supporting the decarbonisation of aviation and in reaching net zero carbon by 2050. Working with Ampaire and the other partners is a valuable opportunity for us to deliver a hybrid-electric propulsion system that could help to transform regional air travel in the future,” said, Rob Watson, Director of Rolls-Royce Electrical.

Dr Jason Atkin, Computational Optimisation and Learning Lab, University of Nottingham added: “This project provides an opportunity to utilise our research to evaluate the effects of these revolutionary changes to air travel. The inclusion of airline and airport partners will ensure that the models and evaluations are realistic – guiding decision makers into how to best take advantage of these innovations in future.”

Effective aircraft systems could create fundamental shift in regional transport

Andrew Bell, from Exeter Airport said: “Our 2ZERO programme is incredibly exciting for us and the South West region. Exeter is an important regional airport and this project really puts us on the map as a forward-looking airport and demonstrates our commitment, along with our partners, to making the future of aviation a sustainable one.”

UK Power Networks Services will be subcontracted to advise on matters related to airport electrical infrastructure, to realise charging solutions for the demonstrations, and to provide advice and input for infrastructure needs and impact for a future scale-up to wide use of electric aircraft, connecting power demand to sustainable electrical power sources.

The 2ZERO team believes that an effective demonstration of hybrid-electric aircraft in an integrated system, including the necessary charging and energy storage infrastructure, could catalyse a fundamental shift in regional airline operations. Emissions would be reduced by up to 70 per cent with hybrid-electric aircraft and entirely with a subsequent generation of all-electric aircraft.

New global market could be worth $192 billion

Successful demonstration up to 19 seats and 1 MW of power will help to shape regulations and standards which currently have gaps for these new classes of aircraft and airport operations. 2ZERO is an important step towards a new market, forecast by UBS to be worth $178 to $192 billion globally between 2028 and 2040.

“With 2ZERO, we are ready to jump start the future of aviation with clean electric power,” said Ampaire’s Ying.

The 2ZERO programme runs from December 2020 to May 2022.

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