In the Great Electric Airplane Race, Ampaire has the Pole Position
By Kevin Noetker, Co-Founder & CEO of Ampaire
I recommend to you an excellent documentary from PBS called Great Electric Airplane Race. Hosted by PBS NewsHour science correspondent Miles O’Brien, it’s a survey of all segments of sustainable aviation.
O’Brien summarizes the case for electric aircraft with the basics on climate change — cue images of fires and floods. He interviews leaders in aviation’s “third revolution,” the advent of electric propulsion.
Our own Susan Ying, SVP of Global Partnerships, and Brice Nzeukou, Director of Business and Product Development, feature prominently — we even see Susan at the controls of her Citabria aerobatic aircraft.
As O’Brien notes, there are some 200 electric aircraft programs vying for a slice of an emerging market. And there is indeed a race to refine technologies, raise money and certify new products.
To a large extent, however, the biggest dogfight is taking place in the eVTOL segment, with aircraft intended to solve urban gridlock issues.
Ampaire is not in a race against these aircraft. Our focus is on the regional airline market with routes of 50 to 500 miles — routes today being flown by turboprop and jet aircraft, often on razor thin margins. Compared with these commuter airplanes, Ampaire’s first generation of products will reduce CO2 emissions and direct operating costs by roughly 25 percent.
Our strategy also differs in that we do not need to certify a whole new aircraft, but instead, we’re focused on creating new powertrain technology to upgrade already certified aircraft.
Nor will we start with a fully electric configuration; current battery technology would impose too many limitations on payload and range.
Ampaire’s initial focus is on hybrid electric upgrades. This is the fastest path to market and the best way to progressively build out an infrastructure for electrified aircraft. As 9 to 19 seat upgraded hybrid electric aircraft come into commercial service, we will springboard to larger and more capable upgrades, and eventually to all-new designs for both hybrid and fully electric aircraft.
As Brice explains to O’Brien: “We strongly believe in a fully electric future, but we’re waiting for regulations to develop, for technology to develop, as well, before we will see full electrification. Hybrid is the way to enter the market.”
In the race toward that initial goal, Ampaire is ahead in already conducting airline flight trials with its hybrid electric technology demonstrator — last year in Hawaii, this year in the UK. Ampaire is working with NASA and the Energy Department to pioneer new powertrain technologies.
We expect to power a new generation of low-emission regional aircraft, making air travel more affordable and widely available in the process, and accelerating the path to zero-emission travel.
Ampaire’s business model and technology together are the necessary components to implement that vision. Today, we are solidly on that path.