H55 Switzerland, a spin-off from the Solar Impulse project, has been involved in four different electric aircraft programs over the last 18 years. The company will now collaborate with Pratt & Whitney Canada, Collins Aerospace and DeHavilland Canada on the development of a demonstration hybrid electric-turboprop using a DeHavilland Canada Dash-8 aircraft. The National Research Council of Canada and Innovative Vehicle Institute are also supporting the development of component designs and electrical control systems for the project.

The participation of H55 follows Pratt & Whitney Canada’s July 2021 announcement of its plans to demonstrate hybrid-electric propulsion technology through a C$163 million investment supported by the governments of Canada and Quebec. P&WC has targeted a 30 percent reduction in fuel burn and CO2 emissions when compared to today’s most efficient turboprop engines. Collins Aerospace will provide the 1 megawatt electric motor for the hybrid propulsion system.

André Borschberg, co-founder and executive chairman of H55 stated “our goal has always been to address regional commuter transportation, and with Pratt & Whitney Canada, there is a perfect fit in which our core technologies compliment each other. Having been selected by P&WC is an important validation that our experience is valued by an important industry player. We are excited to be working in Quebec with P&WC and several other industries and research collaborators in bringing our battery pack to the hybrid-electric demonstrator program.”

H55

The battery system to be provided by H55 consists of a set up cube-like batteries that are modular and lightweight that will be placed inside the fuselage. The company’s experience since its formation in 2017 builds on two Solar Impulse electric aircraft that circumnavigated the globe, with the first one completing its flight in 2016.

Since then, H55 has developed a battery system for the Twister Aero1 aerobatic aircraft, and on the BRM Aero Bristell B23 Energic two-seater trainer aircraft. The company expects to receive EASA certification of its 100 kW electric system by the end of 2023, so that the Bristell will be commercially available from 2024. In 2021, H55 announced a partnership with magniX and Harbour to certify the electric version of the Beaver seaplane, called the eBeaver, through a Supplemental Type Certificate program in collaborating with Transport Canada.

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H55 also supplies the energy storage system for the first commercial electric version of the DeHavilland Beaver commuter seaplane that uses the magniX motor. Harbour Air plans to retrofit its entire fleet, which will include H55 lightweight battery modules. With 35-40 minutes flights around Vancouver BC, their operation is well suited to electric aircraft.

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The Bottom Line

Electrification is coming as fast as energy storage technologies will allow, and H55 has a unique blend of capabilities and electric aircraft experience that made it a natural candidate for the hybrid project led by P&WC. We look forward to seeing the aircraft in flight and demonstrating the capabilities of hybrid power for regional aircraft.

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President AirInsight Group LLC

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