From a small office overlooking an airfield, once home to the UK’s first Spitfire squadron, a tiny British start-up is hoping to make a little history of its own – as one of the pioneers of commercial electrified aviation.
Faradair is planning to develop and sell a hybrid-electric passenger plane, aimed at the regional aviation market. It would have up to 19 seats and would be propelled by a fan driven by an electric motor. The necessary electricity would be provided by a small gas turbine.
In order to provide extra lift, and allow take-offs and landings from short runways, it would also have a triple level wing. This would give it a passing resemblance to a World War One fighter, despite having state-of-the-art aerodynamics.
The company’s chief executive, Neil Cloughley, argues that such a plane would have far fewer moving parts than a conventional propeller aircraft, making it cheaper to run. It would also be much quieter, and produce fewer emissions.
“Why do we not use aeroplanes like we would a bus?” he asks.
“The reason is cost of operation, primarily. Also if you start using lots of aeroplanes it creates a lot of noise, and of course we have now got into an age where sustainability really is a key part of our future.
“So we decided we would come up with an aircraft that would not only be economic to use, and therefore cost-effective, but would also be quiet and sustainable.”
The Faradair design, he says, would allow short hops between cities such as London and Manchester for £25 each way – less than the cost of a rail ticket.
In more remote or inaccessible regions, meanwhile, such planes could provide a transport lifeline from small airstrips, avoiding the need for major investments in road or rail lines.
It plans to have the aircraft flying by 2025 with commercial use starting in 2027.
Faradair is far from alone in seeing the potential of electric aviation, at a time when governments around the world are searching for ways to reduce carbon emissions. Nor is its project the most ambitious.
California-based start-up Wright Electric, for example, plans to bring a fully-electric 100-seat aircraft into service by the middle of the decade. It would be based on the existing Bae146, with its four turbofan engines replaced by electric motors.
The company, which has a partnership with Easyjet, says the aircraft would be used to carry out one-hour flights, allowing it to serve routes such as London-Paris, New York-Washington or Hong Kong-Taipei.
(Source: BBC, July 19-2022)