United Airlines plans to add 100 all-electric aircraft to its fleets to provide short-hop transportation. The all-electric plane Heart Aerospace ES-19 is designed to carry up to 19 people and travel up to 250 miles on full charge. It is still be a few years yet before it shows up for regional service.
The ES-19 is one of several different all-electric plane projects in development, though Heart Aerospace believes it has a few key advantages over rivals. For a start it’s larger than the competition, same sort of battery technology that is used in electric cars are important factor when it comes to short-haul flight business.
The ES-19 uses an aluminum frame and four electric motors. Each of those motors is about 20 times less expensive than a similarly-sized turboprop, and about 100 times less than a turbofan, Heart Aerospace suggests. Air travel currently contributes around 2-percent of global CO2 emissions, but the plane-maker says that about 9-percent of global emissions are from short haul travel – under around 250 miles – in general. That’s the category in which the ES-19 is designed to dominate, replacing things like car journeys as much as short-haul turboprop flights.
Zero-emissions aren’t the only advantage, however. Maintenance costs can be 90-percent lower for electric motors, Heart Aerospace argues, compared to traditional turboprops. Fuel costs drop 50-75 percent. There’s also the potential for electronic systems monitoring, which can proactively spot potential servicing issues, and trim inspection requirements.
As for charging, Heart Aerospace says it expects a suitable 1MW unit to be around $500,000. However, that could also be used to support ground-based transportation and service vehicles. A typical flight would require under 40 minutes of charging, the company says.
The company already has full-scale demonstrators of the propulsion system, and is aiming to complete its Preliminary Design Review (PDR) in Q3 2022. Expected first flight will take place by Q4 2024.