First flight for Ampaire's hybrid-electric Eco Caravan

Ampaire Eco Caravan
Ampaire's Eco Caravan powered by a hybrid-electric propulsion system

+VIDEO US developer Ampaire has flown its Eco Caravan powered by a hybrid-electric propulsion system.

The Eco Caravan has a 550hp RED Aircraft AO3 V12 diesel to provide the base power, and Ampaire’s electrical system to add peak power, battery and charging system. The RED engine was burning Sustainable Aviation Fuel.

Ampaire says the Eco Caravan will be the first electrified regional aircraft to enter commercial service and is aiming for certification in 2024.

“Aviation is the hardest industry to decarbonize,” said Ampaire CEO Kevin Noertker.

“Fully-electric aircraft are range limited because of the weight and energy capacity of current-generation batteries. Hybrid-electric aircraft, however, can preserve the range and utility of today’s aircraft.

“That is why we are focused on hybrid-electric propulsion for a series of increasingly capable regional aircraft. It’s a way for the airline industry to decarbonize more quickly and also to benefit from lower operating costs.”

The benefits of the hybrid-electric propulsion are said to be:

  • Fuel consumption reduced by 70 percent on shorter trips and 50 percent on longer ones, with greater corresponding reductions in CO2 emissions
  • The RED engine provides high thermodynamic efficiency that is 2X better than a comparable turboprop engine
  • The RED engine is JET A/SAF compatible. With SAF usage, CO2 emissions have the potential for net zero
  • Engine initial cost and ongoing maintenance are substantially lower than for a turboprop engine
  • Eco Caravan operating cost is 25-40 percent lower.

The first flight was 33 minutes to make initial checks of the propulsion system. With test pilot Elliot Seguin at the controls, the Eco Caravan took off from Camarillo Airport north of Los Angeles at 07.49 am Pacific Time.

It climbed to 3,500ft at full power, combining power from the combustion engine and electric engine. Seguin then throttled back to a cruise setting, reducing load on both power sources.

He spent roughly 20 minutes testing various power settings while studying temperatures and other readings befoe making a descent and final approach to Camarillo at a low power setting.

“The Eco Caravan propulsion system performed just as expected,” said Seguin. “It was smooth and quiet. All temperature and power output readings were normal.”



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