Otto Aviation, which is developing a six-seat, piston-powered private aircraft, known as the Celera 500L, on Tuesday unveiled plans to create a zero-emissions version of the high-efficiency aircraft during Green Innovations webcast organized by the International Civil Aviation Organization. The U.S. company expects the initial conventionally-powered version of the aircraft which features a curiously portly, but laminar-flow friendly fuselage to enter service in 2025.
“We’re pleased to announce the development of a zero-emissions version of the aircraft by 2027, using either battery-electric or Hydrogen power,” said David Bogue, the airframer’s chief technology officer, adding it is designing the single-engine pusher, which is powered by a 550-hp RED A03 diesel engine, with the ability be retrofit to a zero-emissions powertrain. “We’re designing the baseline aircraft to be compatible with either until the combination of performance and infrastructure clarifies which is preferable.”
The RED A03 engine is certified to run on 100 percent bio-diesel, as well as Jet-A and standard blends of sustainable aviation fuel.
While current battery technology is not yet where it needs to be to meet the company’s needs, “We’re optimistic that improvements to specific energy, cycles and charge rates would enable battery power on future aircraft, especially in the long term,” said Bogue. He noted that the aircraft's fuselage, which widens as it moves back from the nose provides "significant interior volume" near its center-of-gravity, making it well-suited for hydrogen or electrical battery storage.
The company noted it has achieved more than 30 test flights on the full-scale prototype aircraft. It claims the production version, scheduled to make its first flight in 2023, will have a maximum cruise speed of 391 knots, a ceiling above 40,000 feet, and a range exceeding 4,485 miles, while offering a stand-up cabin and fuel economy of 16 to 22 nm per gallon. Otto stated that the RED A03 powerplant typically cuts the aircraft's fuel consumption by half over those powered by the popular Pratt & Whitney Canada PT-6 turboprop engine, and cited a 5-to-8 times improvement in emissions.
In terms of financing, Otto said that between $160 million and $230 million will be required to bring the Celera 500L to certification, plus another $30 million to $70 million for its zero-emissions offspring.