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E-Aircraft: Rolls Royce Establishes New Partnership

April 2021 | Innovations

Rolls-Royce electric aircraft

Flying with pure battery power? Transporting dozens or even hundreds of passengers emission-free from A to B? More and more corporations are pursuing and researching precisely this goal. According to management consultancy Roland Berger, around 215 electric-powered aircraft were already under development worldwide at the beginning of 2020. “Electric propulsion could lead to a paradigm shift in the aerospace industry,” the consultants write.(*) The use of electric propulsion systems in aircraft is no longer a question of whether, but of when.

This is matched by a recent report from the British engine manufacturer Rolls Royce. At the beginning of March, it entered into a partnership with the Italian aircraft manufacturer Tecnam and the Norwegian regional airline Wideroe, reports Argus Media.The goal: to develop an all-electric aircraft by 2026 to be used for commuters on the Norwegian short-haul network of Wideroe. The new machine will be built on the basis of the eleven-seat Tecnam P2012, which is already in use in Norway. Argus Media quotes Stein Nilsen, CEO of Wideroe, as saying that “Norway’s extensive network of short take-off and landing airports is ideal for zero emissions technologies.” Wideroe is clearly on track to meet its zero-emissions target for all flights by around 2025.

Short- and Mid-Range Providers Push E-Flight Research

Vancouver-based Canadian Harbour Air also wants to convert its entire fleet into electric aircraft. The largest seaplane airline in North America transports more than 500,000 passengers annually on about 30,000 commercial flights. All Harbour Air flights last less than 30 minutes, making them perfect for electric motors. As early as December 2019, Harbour Air announced the first successful test flight with a fully electric passenger aircraft – a six-seater DHC-2 Havilland Beaver. Just over half a year earlier, Harbour Air had entered into a partnership with magniX. Founded in Seattle in 2005, the company specializes in electric propeller systems. Roei Ganzarski, CEO of magniX, said on the occasion of the new partnership: “In 2018, 75 percent of worldwide airline flights were 1,000 miles or less in range.” For this reason, he sees enormous potential in the combination of new propeller systems with ever-increasing battery capacities in this middle mile range.

Airbus Plans Zero-Emission Aircraft by 2035

Even the big aircraft manufacturers have been researching e-aircraft for a long time. Airbus, for example, has been using hydrogen-powered aircraft since 2010 – and is now increasingly using it. In September 2020, Airbus presented three concept aircraft under the project name ZEROe, all of which are powered by hydrogen. Speaking to Tagesschau.de, outgoing head of technology Grazia Vittadini spoke of a “historic moment”. Airbus plans to launch its first zero-emission aircraft as early as 2035.

While this specific timetable may sound rather ambitious, the direction seems clear: zero-emission aircraft – whether electric or hydrogen – will sooner or later be the norm, or at least significantly strengthen many fleets. And the production of the new drives will continue to boost demand for technology metals at many manufacturing points, including lithium and cobalt, rare earths such as neodymium and dysprosium.


Rolls-Royce electric aircraft

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