Los Angeles-based Ampaire unveiled its prototype electric-powered plane, the Ampaire 337, in a test flight above Camarillo Airport in California on June 6. Never before has a hybrid-electric aircraft this large actually taken off.
"Imagine that in just a few years you will be able to buy a ticket for a flight that is clean, quiet and inexpensive," says Kevin Noertker, the CEO of the startup, which was launched in March 2016.
The twin-engine plane will be able to carry seven to nine passengers and boasts a range of up to 100 miles (160 kilometers). It is based on the six-seat Cessna 337 Skymaster, which was retrofitted with Ampaire s proprietary electric propulsion system powered by a lightweight battery system.
The company said this is a "parallel hybrid," meaning the internal combustion engine and electric motor work to optimize power output as the plane flies.
A big eco step
Reducing aviation s impact on the environment is an industry-wide goal.
Facing pressure to reduce the impact of aviation on the environment, airlines and manufacturers are searching for green alternatives, from carbon offsetting schemes, to industry sustainability targets and alternative fuels.
Airlines have committed to achieving carbon-neutral growth from 2020 onwards and to cutting aviation s net emissions by 50% by 2050, compared with 2005 levels.
According to the European Commission, airplane emissions currently account for about 3% of total EU greenhouse gas emissions and about 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Emissions per person on a flight from London to New York is roughly equivalent to a person in the EU heating their home for a whole year.
In hybrid configuration, the aircraft sees big greenhouse gas emissions savings and operating cost reductions. Electric aircraft are also quieter.
"Given the urgency of the climate crisis, today s historic flight not only signifies a huge step forward for aviation, it also shines a light on Los Angeles s leadership in transportation electrification," said Matt Petersen, CEO of the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI). Ampaire belongs to the LA-based startup incubator s portfolio.