Short-haul flights (under 2,000 km) account for 43% of carbon dioxide emissions from global air travel. This is where electric aviation plays a major role as it cuts emissions, thereby making electric aircrafts the most sustainable and cost-effective way to travel.
At this point in time, a Swedish company building a 19-seater electric airplane, Heart Aerospace, has announced that it closed $35 million (nearly £25 million) in a Series A funding round led by Breakthrough Energy Ventures, United Airlines Ventures and Mesa Air Group Inc. along with its existing investors EQT Ventures and LowerCarbon Capital.
”I can’t imagine a stronger coalition of partners to advance our mission to electrify short-haul air travel.” said Anders Forslund, CEO of Heart Aerospace. “There’s BEV – the world’s most influential climate fund. There’s United – one of the world’s largest airlines, who’s poised to be the global leader in decarbonising air travel, and there’s Mesa, the largest operator of 19-seater aircraft in history. This combination of near-term commercial viability and long-term climate investment philosophy is exactly what we need to make commercial electric air travel a reality ”.
“Aviation is such a critical piece of our global economy. At the same time, it’s a major source of carbon emissions and one of the most difficult sectors to decarbonize,” said Carmichael Roberts, Breakthrough Energy Ventures. “We believe electric aircraft can be transformational in reducing the emissions of the industry, and enable low cost, quiet and clean regional travel on a broad scale. Heart’s visionary team is developing an aircraft around its proprietary electric propulsion technology that will allow airlines to operate at a fraction of the cost of today and has the potential to change the way we fly.”
“Breakthrough Energy Ventures is the leading voice of investors who are supporting clean-energy technology creation. We share their view that we have to build companies who have real potential to change how industries operate and in our case, that means investing in companies like Heart Aerospace who are developing a viable electric airliner,” said Michael Leskinen, United’s Vice President Corp Development & Investor Relations, as well as UAV’s President. “We’re proud to partner with Mesa Air Group to bring electric aircraft to our customers earlier than any other US airliner.”
“We are proud to work with United and Heart to launch the world’s first electric, regional aircraft. Mesa intends to continue its expansion through the introduction of revolutionary technology that benefits our passengers and the environment. We are delighted to build upon our relationship with United through our joint investment in Heart”, said Jonathan Ornstein, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. “These technological innovations are good for the environment, will expand the national transportation system, and provide significant growth opportunities for Mesa. We look forward to reconnecting with communities and passengers we previously served.”
Heart’s lead seed investor EQT Ventures also participated in the round: “As a purpose-driven investor, investing in companies like Heart is exactly why we exist. It’s hard not to be inspired by the massive ambition, the execution mindset, and the game-changer potential for the environment. We’re happy to welcome strong investors like Breakthrough Energy Ventures, United Airlines, and Mesa Air Group to the investor group, representing all necessary aspects for the journey ahead”, said Ted Persson, Partner at EQT Ventures.
Sustainable electric flights in the UK
In the UK, short-haul electric flights would be used for the urgent delivery of medical supplies in parts of Scotland. Also, Heathrow airport has said it will waive landing fees for a year for the first hybrid, electric aircraft to operate scheduled services and further incentives are also expected. Also, the COVID-19 pandemic has come as a hindrance to the passenger demand for long-haul flights.
ES-19 aircraft to go commercial by 2026
Heart Aerospace’s first aircraft is the ES-19, a nineteen-passenger regional airplane driven entirely by batteries and electric motors. The company anticipates delivering the first ES-19 for commercial use by 2026. The first-generation aircraft will have a maximum range of up to 400 km (250 miles), using lithium-ion batteries. The range will increase as battery energy densities improve.
The core of the ES-19 is the electric propulsion system. In 2020, Heart Aerospace demonstrated its first iteration of this electric propulsion system, consisting of a 400kW electric motor, an electric motor controller, and a battery pack with an integrated BMS system – all with world-leading performance.
The ES-19 will have zero operational emissions and offer significantly lower operating costs compared to similar-sized gas-turbine aircraft. The ES-19 aircraft will also be quieter than its turboprop counterparts, with less vibration and noise. These characteristics make the aircraft ideal for the development of short-range regional air travel.
As part of the agreement, United and Mesa have together placed purchase orders for 200 ES-19 aircraft, with options for an additional 100 aircraft.