Electric commuter flight one step nearer to take-off under new challenge award

 Electric commuter flight one step nearer to take-off under new challenge award

The University of Nottingham has joined a consortium, led by Ampaire – an innovator in electric aviation, to show the feasibility and advantages of regional electric aviation transport.

The group’s 2ZERO (Towards Zero Emissions in Regional Aircraft Operations) programme includes demonstration flights of Ampaire’s six-seat Electric EEL aircraft, and, in a later phase, of a 19-seat Eco Otter SX, hybrid-electric upgrade of the workhorse Twin Otter commuter aircraft. These testbed aircraft is going to be used to develop and evaluate requirements for a fully integrated electric aviation infrastructure.

Consortium partners include Rolls-Royce Electrical, University of Nottingham, Loganair Ltd, Exeter and Devon Airports Ltd, Cornwall Airport Ltd, Heart of the Southwest Local Enterprise Partnership (HotSWLEP), and UK Power Network Services.

The University has been selected due to its experience in air transportation system modelling and simulation (M&S) in addition to electrification of aviation and systems integration.

Nottingham will lead the M&S activities, dealing with airline and airport partners, to assess the impact on costs, operations and crew rostering for operating a fleet of hybrid-electric vehicles. The objective is to develop an optimised electric aviation ecosystem, including aircraft, airports, power distribution and storage.

Dr Jason Atkin, Computational Optimisation and Learning Lab, University of Nottingham, said: “This project offers an opportunity to utilise our research to judge the effects of these revolutionary changes to air travel. The inclusion of airline and airport partners will ensure that the models and evaluations are realistic – guiding decision makers into how to best take advantage of these innovations in future.”

The team has received a share of £30m in the Future Flight Challenge because of its 2ZERO proposal to demonstrate hybrid-electric aircraft on regional routes within the South West of the UK. The work is funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

2ZERO takes a whole aviation systems approach to integrate hybrid-electric aircraft technology with existing airport and airline operations for rapid adoption of sustainable air travel within a new, net-zero aviation system.

The UK Government aims to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, with electric aviation creating a substantial contribution on domestic routes. One of the objectives of the 2ZERO programme is to model and simulate a point-to-point (PTP) route system for regional flights using very efficient hybrid-electric aircraft, improving regional services and providing more time- and energy-efficient travel options versus traditional hub-and-spoke systems.

“For electric aviation being commonplace, and play a substantial role in reducing greenhouse gases, we need to look at not only electric aircraft but the entire ecosystem to support electric aviation. That will be a key aim of the 2ZERO programme,” said Susan Ying, Ampaire Senior V . p . for Global Partnerships.

“We're excited to be involved in Project 2ZERO, which demonstrates our commitment to supporting the decarbonisation of aviation and in reaching net zero carbon by 2050. Working with Ampaire and the other partners is really a valuable opportunity for us to deliver a hybrid-electric propulsion system that may help to transform regional air travel in the future,” said, Rob Watson, Director of Rolls-Royce Electrical.

The 2ZERO team believes that the effective demonstration of hybrid-electric aircraft in an integrated system, including the necessary charging and energy storage infrastructure, could catalyse a fundamental shift in regional airline operations. Emissions would be reduced by up to 70 % with hybrid-electric aircraft and entirely with a subsequent generation of all-electric aircraft.

Successful demonstration up to 19 seats and 1 MW of power will assist you to shape regulations and standards which actually have gaps for these new classes of aircraft and airport operations. 2ZERO is an important step towards being part of an exciting new market, forecast by UBS to become worth $178 to $192bn globally between 2028 and 2040.

“With 2ZERO, we are ready to jump start the future of aviation with clean electrical power,” said Ampaire’s Ying.

The 2ZERO programme runs from December 2021 to May 2022.

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