Small aircraft maker Tecnam has postponed the development of the P-Volt, the electric 9-seater aircraft that was unveiled in 2020 and would be developed together with Rolls-Royce. The Italian company says that “after three years of intensive studies covering the entire lifecycle of an all-electric aircraft, Tecnam has concluded that the time for P-Volt is not yet ripe, although research activities will continue to explore new emerging technologies.” Tecnam postpones development of the electric P-Volt.
Tecnam unveiled the P-Volt in 2020. Based on the P2012 Traveller, the electric version would seat nine passengers and would be the first electric aircraft to enter commercial service by 2026. The aircraft would use an electric power unit system developed by Rolls-Royce. Norwegian regional carrier Wideroe signed up as the launch operator, as the P-Volt would fit in perfectly with the decarbonization strategy of Norway.
The showstopper for P-Volt is battery technology. In a media statement, Tecnam said on Tuesday: “We have looked closely at the state of the art in energy storage and realistic five-year developments, excluding technological revolutions that no one can speculate on. One of the conclusions was that an aircraft with a battery pack at the end of its life would not be the best product for the market, but certainly the worst in terms of Net Present Value (NPV).”
Battery technology is the problem
Tecnam says that current battery technology or the one that is anticipated to become available within the next five years is inadequate to operate a small regional aircraft. “The proliferation of aircraft with “new” batteries would lead to unrealistic mission profiles that would quickly degrade after a few weeks of operation, making the all-electric passenger aircraft a mere “Green Transition flagship” rather than a real player in the decarbonization of aviation.”
“Taking into account the most optimistic projections of slow charge cycles and the possible limitation of the maximum charge level per cycle, the real storage capacity would fall below 170Wh/kg, and only a few hundred flights would drive operators to replace the entire storage unit, with a dramatic increase in direct operating costs due to the reserves for battery replacement prices.”
Chief R&D Officer Fabio Russo says in the release: “We don’t feel attracted by the “2026“ stream or any Electric Rush. It has always been our culture to commit to achievable goals with customers and operators, and we intend to keep that promise. We hope that new technologies will make businesses viable sooner rather than later, and we have real confidence in our partners’ ability to bring highly valuable products to the zero-emission powertrain and energy storage arena.”
This means that Tecnam will resume development of the P-Volt, once battery technology has advanced. Other OEMs and start-ups have planned updates and announcements of their electric aircraft projects at next week’s Paris Airshow, including Eviation, Auro Aero, and Maeve.
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.