After years of experimenting with hybrid electric prototypes, Diamond Aircraft will begin developing its first fully-electric airplane, the Austria-based manufacturer announced Tuesday.
The airplane—dubbed the eDA40—will be targeted for flight training in school fleets, Diamond said. As the name suggests, the new aircraft will be modified from Diamond’s existing DA40 series, a single-engine piston, four-seat, composite airplane, which has been in service since the late 1990s.
Diamond said it expects the plane’s first flight to take place in the second quarter of 2022. If all goes as planned, the new airplane could be certified “by 2023,” said Annemarie Mercedes Heikenwälder, head of sales and marketing at Diamond Aircraft. “Because it’s based on an existing and proven airframe and we are essentially retrofitting the battery, we expect to be able to hit that timeline,” Heikenwälder told FLYING.
It’s All About The Battery
As with all electric aircraft, so much hinges on the battery. Diamond’s battery partner for the new aircraft will be Utah-based Electric Power Systems and its EPiC battery system, Heikenwälder said. An engine partner for the aircraft has not yet been announced.
The EDA40 is expected to have about a 90-minute flight time and a recharge turnaround time of about 20 minutes, said Heikenwälder.
“Because of the flight time it will have, as well as the quick charge-ability, we definitely see flight schools wanting this product and being able to use and apply this product,” she said.
According to Diamond, batteries will be installed in a “custom designed belly pod” as well as between the engine and the forward bulkhead. The aim of the new model is to cut operating costs by as much as 40% compared to traditional piston aircraft, Diamond said.
Diamond’s Electric History
Tuesday’s announcement follows Diamond’s years of experience developing and testing electric hybrid airplane prototypes.
In 2009, Diamond teamed up with Siemens and EADS to develop a two-seat motor glider with a serial hybrid-electric drive system. Dubbed the DA36 E-Star, the aircraft first flew in 2011.
Diamond also joined Siemens on another hybrid electric experimental project—a multiengine aircraft, which took flight for the first time in 2018.
Diamond now joins several other aircraft manufacturers that are currently developing or producing fully electric commercial aircraft, including Colorado’s Bye Aerospace and Slovenia-based Pipistrel Aircraft.
In 2020, Pipistrel’s Velis Electro—a two-seat, light-sport trainer—won type certification by EASA, making it the world’s first type-certified, fully electric airplane.