Italian aircraft manufacturer Tecnam has announced it is suspending developmental work on its P-Volt electric aircraft, in a move that is likely to have a chilling effect on the emerging sustainable aviation ecosystem.
The P-Volt was one of the forerunners in the quest to get a battery-powered all-electric propulsion airliner up in the air before the end of this decade.
An electrified version of Tecnam’s conventionally powered P-2012 Traveller commuter aircraft, the nine-seater P-Volt was expected to enter service around 2026.
The P-Volt had been selected by Wideroe, a Norwegian regional airline, as the platform of choice to develop its aviation decarbonization vision.
Wideroe has taken an active role in the promotion of electric aviation in Norway, collaborating with both Tecnam and Rolls-Royce to develop the P-Volt for commercial air traffic at a regional and sub-regional scale and in line with Norway’s ambitious decarbonization goal for its aviation industry.
In its official announcement, Tecnam expressed concern about the ability of current battery technology to guarantee viable storage levels beyond a few hundred cycles. According to the same statement, there is a real concern that after some use, battery capacity would deplete and soon fall below the 170 Wh/kg mark, which would force operators to replace the battery packs and seriously undermine the economic case for electric aviation.
Tecnam denounced what it described as a rush to get “Green Transition flagships”, that is aircraft with new battery packs, up in the air as soon as possible, sometimes even as soon as 2025-2026, while the longer-term viability of these concepts is still not clear.
After highlighting its extensive experience in developing and certifying aircraft, Tecnam’s closed its statement by underlining that the company “believes that these key factors cannot define a new aircraft development as “viable” with a target entry into service by 2026-2028.”
However, the Italian firm has not completely closed the door on electric aviation and has stated that it will continue working with its partners in this sphere and is “ready to bring the P-Volt back into the type certification arena as soon as technology evolution allows”.