Tecnam is partnering with Rolls-Royce to develop an all-electric, nine-passenger aircraft known as the P-Volt. In an October 23 announcement, the Italian light aircraft manufacturer said that the new model will be ready to enter commercial service on scheduled operations on short- to medium-range routes during the second half of the 2020s.
The company, which is based near Naples, has not disclosed any projected performance details or specifications for the new aircraft. It will be powered by a pair of as-yet-unspecified electric motors provided by Rolls-Royce, which is stepping up its investment in electric propulsion.
The two companies are currently working on the H3PS project, a hybrid-electric version of Tecnam’s four-seat P2010. This program is pairing an electric motor from Rolls-Royce with a conventionally-fueled Rotax engine.
According to Tecnam, the P-Volt program will "build on the experience" gained developing the P2012 Traveller twin-piston aircraft, which was delivered to U.S. launch customer Cape Air in October 2019, having gained both EASA and FAA type certification under Part 23 rules. The P2012 is powered by a pair of 375-hp Lycoming TEO540C1A engines, with a maximum range of just over 1,000 miles and a cruise speed of 200 mph.
Given the limitations of current battery technology, the P-Volt will likely have a significantly shorter range than the P2012. Tecnam said operators will be able to rapidly recharge the batteries, which will deliver unspecified reductions in operating costs and noise emissions. It said that the aircraft's performance will be based on the European Commission's Clean Aviation roadmap for environmentally sustainable transportation.
Tecnam says that a number of unnamed airlines have signed letters of intent for the P-Volt. In November 2015, Massachusetts-based Cape Air agreed to buy up to 102 of the P2012 and it is not known how many of these aircraft it now has in its fleet.
In June 2019, Cape Air announced an agreement to buy the nine-seat all-electric Alice aircraft being developed by Eviation. Deliveries from the reported double-digit order are due to begin in 2022, but development work has been delayed following a fire during ground testing in January 2020. The first prototype is now not expected to begin flight testing until 2021.
“We all need to commit our efforts towards systems that contribute to decarbonization,” said Tecnam CEO Paolo Pascale Langer. “By combining efficiency and renewable energy into the futuristic propulsion system, we will not only reduce costs, but also grant a greener future to our passion for flying.”
Tecnam says the P-Volt will be based on its so-called Dream concept, standing for durability, reliability, employability, affordability and manageability. It says the new aircraft could also be used for applications such as cargo-carrying and medical emergency services.
“Rolls-Royce is committed to delivering the electrification of flight and to support the decarbonization of aviation,” said Rob Watson, the UK-based aircraft engine maker’s director of electrical programs. “This new partnership with Tecnam will strengthen our existing relationship, further developing both companies’ capabilities.”