Electric flying advances to the mainstream as Tecnam joins the race

P-VOLT project sets Italy's Tecnam on the path to becoming the first established airplane maker to disclose plans to develop an all-electric commercial aircraft.

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Release Date
November 12, 2020
Electric flying advances to the mainstream as Tecnam joins the race
On March 9, 2020, Italy went into lockdown. The nine-week freeze sought to get control of COVID-19, shuttering most of Italian life. All non-essential businesses, travel, free movement, schools and universities were suspended. In Capua, a short drive north of Naples, small general aviation manufacturer, Costruzioni Aeronautiche Tecnam, was watching the ground under its feet shift.

Just sixteen days prior, its clean sheet P2012 Traveller officially began flying revenue passengers for the first time with launch operator Cape Air — the culmination of more than a decade’s worth of development of Tecnam’s flagship nine-passenger aircraft.

Hunkered down, Tecnam began rethinking its strategy. “At the beginning of pandemic, we all started with a thought: In this period, the investments for a green world will be surely swamped by those related with public health or diverted to economic recovery,” said to Fabio Russo, Tecnam’s head of research and development, in an exclusive interview with The Air Current.

The result of this shift in thinking culminated on a Friday in late October, a day of the week typically reserved for sharing information one wouldn’t want widely seen. The company would launch a new development effort for an aircraft it is calling the P-VOLT, an all-electric version based on its newly-minted Traveller.

Related: Coronavirus shreds the engine maker business model

For the P-VOLT, Tecnam is swapping aircraft’s two 375 horsepower Lycoming TEO-540 piston engines in favor of new electric motors from Rolls-Royce and developing an all-electric systems architecture for everything from anti-icing and environmental control to avionics.

Tecnam’s entrance into all-electric aviation is the most significant advance for the industrialization of the technology to date, a development that represents a crucial first in the quest for genuinely green commercial air travel.

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