Today sees the reveal of a pioneering design for a hybrid-electric regional aircraft, intended as a technical and commercial entry point for sustainable mass air transport. The aircraft design has been developed by Electric Aviation Group (EAG), a UK-based engineering and development firm, which indicates that it expects its first aircraft to enter service by 2028.
The aircraft, named the HERA (Hybrid Electric Regional Aircraft), can accommodate more than 70 seats and can feature a ‘Cabin-flex’ design that enables carriers to run passenger operations with the aircraft during the day and cargo operations at night, maximising their use of the asset.
The level of operations is enabled by an innovative airborne battery regeneration system, which also minimises turn-around times, as well as thermal management of the motors and power electronics.
Other features include Gear Assisted Take-Off Run (GATOR), which gives rapid acceleration for a quick lift-off with reduced energy requirements, and short take-off-and-landing (STOL) performance, which enables new route opportunities.
These routes can include operations from regional airports, which as well as being convenient for travellers and quiet for local residents, is also useful for proximity to warehouses, enabling private sector cargo to optimise last-mile terrestrial logistics and delivery systems and reduce carbon emissions.
The HERA has the flexibility to be transformed into an all-electric or carbon-neutral aircraft as battery density improves or alternative fuels and associated powertrain technologies mature and become affordable. The future-proof design can accommodate alternative energy sources if they become available before 2030.
The design has received unequivocal support from EAG’s JetZero consortium, which includes some of the UK’s leading engineering and manufacturing organisations and senior academic advisors.
“Significant investments have been raised to develop sub-19 seat hybrid and all-electric aircraft, which we believe is the wrong strategy. These small planes cannot meet the demands of mass air transportation or the requirements of decarbonisation,” commented Kamran Iqbal, founder and CEO of EAG.
“Our design is for an aircraft that will initially offer an 800 nautical miles range at launch in 2028, and which will be able to carry over 70 people. We will be a first mover in what is a US$4.4 trillion market.”
EAG will draw on the aviation industry in Bristol when it begins production of the new aircraft for which it has already developed and filed 25 patents covering a wide range of technologies. The organisation expects to initially create more than 25,000 jobs and unlock US$5 billion investments in the UK aerospace industry.
“We expect this to be a great example of British design, engineering and build,” added Iqbal. “Not only will the development of the HERA help the Department of Transport accelerate its ‘Jet Zero’ carbon reduction goals, it will also help to create much-needed job opportunities in the aerospace, manufacturing, engineering and services industries post-Brexit. This represents the future of both passenger and cargo flights internationally and as an opportunity for investment, it could not be better timed.”