2026 looks set to become a year of make-shift for Scandinavia’s regional and domestic air travel. It’s the year when both Norway’s Wideroe and Finnair plan to start operating full-electric 19-seaters on domestic routes. Wideroe and Finnair confirmed their intentions this month to really make this step-change in the next five years.
In a press release on March 25, Finnair announced it has signed a Letter of Intent to purchase up to twenty Heart Aerospace ES19s for entry into service n 2026. Heart is a Gothenburg (Sweden) based start-up that was launched in 2019. It is developing a full-electric, battery-powered 19-seater with a range of some 400 kilometers. Four electric engines sit on a slender high-wing, while the gear is fully retractable. The ES is of a scalable design, so there are options to grow the fuselage for higher passenger numbers. Heart Aerospace started as an initiative within Swedish research and innovation programs and also received financial backing from EU-innovation funds.
On March 11, Rolls-Royce and Italian airframer Tecnam will develop the all-electric P-Volt to enter service with Wideroe in 2026. The P-Volt is based on the P-2012 11-seater and has a high wing with two engines. Tecnam will focus on the airframe design and certification and Rolls-Royce on the propulsion and power systems.
The Tecnam P-Volt is developed for first use by Wideroe. (Tecnam)
What makes Scandinavia a frontrunner on all-electric air travel is that the individual countries have set out a clear strategy to become carbon neutral. Norway wants domestic service to become full-electric in 2030 and be carbon neutral by 2040, while Sweden is aiming to operate fossil-free domestic services as early as 2030. Finland wants to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by half in 2025 and become carbon-free in 2045.
Most countries are part of the Nordic Network of Electric Aviation (NEA), which includes Finnair, SAS. Air Greenland, Braathens, IcelandAir, Swedavia, Avinor, El-fly AS, RISE, Nordic Innovation Sustainable Aviation, and Heart Aerospace.
In May 2019, SAS and Airbus signed a Memorandum of Understanding for hybrid and electric eco-system and infrastructure requirements with the aim of accelerating the development of a 100-seater. The corporation ended last December.
Also, the character of Scandinavia’s domestic networks ideally suits the use of all-electric regional airliners. While they have a limited range of 400 kilometers at the current state of battery technology, this is not an immediate disadvantage. For example, Wideroe operates various routes with a flight time of just seven to fifteen minutes and distances of around 250-275 kilometers. The airline currently flies Bombardier Dash 8-100s and -300s on these routes. Finnair uses Embraer E190s on its domestic network.
But it’s not just Scandinavia that eyes electric aviation. Down South in Spain, Volotea and Iberia franchise carrier Air Nostrum have teamed up with Dante Aviation to develop the hybrid-electric DAX-19. This is a 19-seater with three powerplants, two on the tips of the high-wing and the third at the back of the empennage, providing a range of some 740 kilometers. The aircraft is under development since Dante was formed in 2018. The first flight is targeted in 2024 and entry into service in 2026.
In mid-March, the two Spanish airlines and Dante have submitted a request for EUR 42 million in development funding to the Ministry of Transport, with funding coming from the European Union’s Recovery, Transformation, and Resilience Plan. Dante is also working on an electric 9-seater seaplane, including the conversion to electric planes for Australia’s Sydney Seaplanes and Isla Air at Palma de Mallorca.
easyjet is still committed to the hybrid-electric Wright 1, which should enter service in 2030. (easyjet)
In a recent Eurocontrol webcast, easyjet CEO Johan Lundgren confirmed that his airline remains committed to the introduction of hybrid-electric airliners around 2030. Easyjet has partnered with US-based Wright Electric on the development of the Wright 1, a 186-seater that should enter service in 2030 and have a range of 500 kilometers. While it has been quiet around the project recently, Lundgren’s remarks can be interpreted as a boost of confidence that Wright is still in the race. Viva Aerobus and Jetex also have partnerships to provide commercial and operational data to the Albany-based company.
While all initiatives have to go through the development and certification phase, there is a clear interest especially in Scandinavia to succeed and meet the target-year of 2026.
Active as a journalist since 1987, with a background in newspapers, magazines, and a regional news station, Richard has been covering commercial aviation on a freelance basis since late 2016.
In 2022, he has gone full-time freelance. Richard has been contributing to AirInsight since December 2018. He is also writing for Airliner World and Aviation News and until July 1 2023 in a part-time role with Dutch website and magazine Luchtvaartnieuws. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.