The Efficiency of a Turboprop, the Performance of a Jet: Meet Maeve’s M80

Maeve Aerospace’s M80 concept takes the best of both worlds, turboprop and regional jet, in a bid to decarbonize without sacrificing speed, cost, comfort, or efficiency.

Maeve M80 hybrid-electric regional jet

A digital rendering of Maeve Aerospace’s concept for an 80-seat, hybrid-electric regional aircraft. [Courtesy: Maeve Aerospace]

What if one aircraft could fuse the performance of a jet with the economics and efficiency of a turboprop, all while reducing carbon emissions to near zero? It sounds like a fantasy. But there’s one already in development—and it’s a hybrid-electric, 80-seat regional airliner.

The aircraft is called the M80, and the company behind it is Dutch manufacturer Maeve Aerospace, which on Monday spilled the details on its latest design. Geared for regional, 800 nm routes, the M80 is claimed to burn less fuel than a regional jet, cost less per seat-mile than a turboprop, and reduce emissions more than both. It’s expected to debut in 2031.

Maeve also announced its expansion to Oberpfaffenhofen Airport (EDMO) in Munich, where a team of 40, including several aviation experts from Airbus, Rolls-Royce, and other manufacturers, will work to develop the design.

Founded in 2021, Maeve’s mission is to remove 50 metric tons of carbon dioxide from commercial routes before 2040. It seeks to launch a globally competitive family of aircraft: one that offers game-changing energy efficiency while being perfectly suited for existing airport infrastructure.

The company plans to accomplish this by taking the best of regional jets and turboprops, both of which it says could be replaced by the M80.

“The current aircraft in place, regional jets or turboprops, are more or less all between 35 and 40 years old,” Martin Nuesseler, chief technology officer of Maeve, told FLYING. “We are doing a really aerodynamically improved design.”

Nuesseler leads engineering for Maeve and has a long history developing clean-sheet aircraft designs. He spent close to 20 years with Airbus, where he helped develop the A400M and A350XWB from concept to industrialization. In his last six years at Airbus, Nuesseler led the manufacturer’s E-Aircraft Systems business, where he worked on concepts such as the electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) CityAirbus, Quadcruiser, and other zero-emission designs.

Nuesseler also spent three years as CTO of Deutsche Aircraft, where he led the reindustrialization of the Dornier 328. Much of his career has been spent studying new aircraft concepts and propulsion systems, such as hydrogen, electric, and hybrid.

The Concept

According to Nuesseler, the main limitations on turboprops today are speed and altitude: They’re typically slower than regional jets and cruise at levels that can create a bumpy ride for passengers.

Rather, their advantage is efficiency, which Maeve said it has captured to produce a “more green” turboprop with the performance and comfort of a jet. The M80 development team includes a few of Nuesseler’s former Airbus E-Aircraft Systems colleagues, who worked on designs such as the A350, A320, and A321XLR, as well as a few experts from Rolls-Royce.

“We're flying on FL350 to 370 like a jet,” said Nuesseler. “This means you can fly fast, you can fly economically, and we are above the weather conditions, where normally the turboprops are completely impacted.”

The M80 is roughly the same length (about 89 feet) and height (28 feet) as a Bombardier CRJ 900, one of the most popular regional jets. But its wingspan (85 feet) is nearly as wide as the distance from nose to tail. Its 63,725-pound MTOW and 18,740-pound max payload lie between the CRJ 900 and the smaller CRJ 100.

The clean-sheet design also introduces a new airframe that is “aerodynamically optimized” for efficient flight, the company says. It claims the M80 will cruise at 400 knots true airspeed (ktas)—in the realm of low-end regional jets and high-end turboprops—to enable cost-efficient block times on longer regional routes. The design’s 800 nm operational range would place it at the lower end of both aircraft types, but it is proposed to meet the required IFR reserves and 3 percent contingency fuel.

However, the secret sauce is in the engines and propulsion system.

The Power System

Maeve is working with an unnamed engine OEM to develop the M80’s engine—Nuesseler said the company would announce which in the coming months. But he told FLYING it’s one of the three largest in the world, and one he’s worked with since 2018 while at Airbus and Deutsche Aircraft.

The M80’s two hybrid-electric engines introduce a unique “thermal process,” which Nuesseler said has been in development by Maeve’s OEM partner for a decade. Unlike other engines, they do not lose performance with altitude, which opens the door for electrification, he said.

The aircraft’s newly integrated hybrid propulsion system uses energy stored in 10 electric battery packs to power the engines. These are complemented by a fuel of the operator’s choosing: They can run on SAF, including the common HEFA variety, but Nuesseler described the M80 as “power-to-liquid (PtL) comparable.”

PtL is another type of SAF that is still in development, expected to be widely available by 2030. Nuesseler characterized Maeve’s PtL variant as a “hydrogen-based e-fuel” and said the company will target, test, and certify its engines to run on it.

Regardless of what fuel is used, the M80 promises to reduce emissions by more than 40 percent—half of that comes from the aerodynamics of the airframe, and the rest comes from the new engine tech and hybridization. However, using PtL is the only method that will allow operators to decarbonize completely, Nuesseler said.

“If you put this engine on a normal existing airframe, it will not work,” he said. “You need to optimize the airframe and the engine together, and this is a game changing element for a new product for the next decade.”

A big selling point for the M80 is its ability to fit seamlessly into existing aviation infrastructure. That’s because the aircraft only uses electric power during takeoff and climb—during descent, the engines are actually used to charge the batteries.

“This is the technology of the thermal concept we have,” Nuesseler told FLYING. “The thermal engine is an altitude optimized engine, which means the engine has quite a significant downsizing versus a normal engine, and hybridization is closing the gap on takeoff performance and climb performance.”

During cruise, only the optimized thermal system is running, which reduces fuel consumption by 40 percent, Nuesseler said. That frees up the engines to charge the batteries—which means airports don’t need to install electric chargers on the ground.

“That 20 minutes descent, with a little bit of extended power in cruise, is sufficient to recharge the battery,” said Nuesseler.

The Maeve CTO added that the M80 could also charge at the gate using normal electric ground support, and that the company is in discussions with a few airlines about which solution they’d prefer. A final decision will be made closer to 2030, but both options would enable two-day turnaround times.

The Vision

According to Maeve, the M80’s combination of turboprop efficiency, new airframe, and high performance propulsion at altitude reduces fuel burn during cruise by more than 40 percent compared to regional jets. Specific fuel consumption is estimated at 2 liters per passenger per 54 nm in cruise. Electric-boosted takeoff and climb, meanwhile, is predicted to reduce the aircraft’s NOX and noise emissions near ground level.

At the same time, the 80-seat aircraft is believed to reduce seat-mile cost by 20 percent compared to equal-sized turboprops, or by 25 percent versus comparable regional jets. Maeve says the design is optimized to achieve best-in-class standards for passenger capacity, range, and lead time.

Per Nuesseler, the M80’s trip cost is “very, very good” because it has less fuel constraints than even the latest turboprops, and operations are cheap enough for it to replace both turboprops and regional jets. The latter, however, is the company’s focus—it expects most trips will span 200 to 800 nm, where swapping out regional jets can create the biggest impact on sustainability.

“We think that when you look at the market to replace CRJs, Q400s, [E-175-E2s from] Embraer and all this equipment, the distribution will be more or less 40 percent North America, 30 percent Europe, and 30 percent Southeast Asia,” Nuesseler told FLYING.

Nuesseler views eVTOL air taxi operations as “completely separate” from Maeve’s vision. Although he worked on the CityAirbus design and is cordial with the CTOs of German eVTOL manufacturers Lilium and Volocopter, he described the aircraft as expensive, niche, and operationally limited due to conditions such as weather. He also fears they won’t fit into existing airport infrastructure and capacity.

Rather, Maeve’s focus is payload efficiency: the energy required to transport a person from Point A to Point B. The M80, Nuesseler said, reduces that requirement by 20 to 40 percent, while eVTOLs can increase it exponentially.

The Maeve CTO said that ten years ago, the conversation was around zero emissions at all costs—even if that meant requiring five times the energy. But he predicted that energy requirements will eventually catch up with the industry, and many eVTOL companies will not survive.

“When you look to full electrification, when you look to hydrogen, you significantly increase the energy you need to transport people,” said Nuesseler. “We are focusing on energy reduction in the future.”

The M80 is still nearly a decade from entry into service, but Maeve has a “very detailed integrated product development plan” in place to get there. At a glance, the extended concept phase will conclude in mid-2026, followed by the first prototype flight in 2028, certification in 2030, and commercial launch in 2031.

Though eVTOL air taxis are expected to hit the market in 2025, Nuesseler said Maeve plans to extend the concept phase in order to ensure smooth sailing post-concept.

“We are sure our product positioning is so well recognized—we’re also in the first contact from the airlines—that we like to be robust in the implementation of the requirements from the airlines to make the detailed specification of this aircraft very good, and to be robust before we close the concept phase.”

Ultimately, Maeve intends to certify the M80 as a European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) Standard CS-25 aircraft. The design includes a few new technologies, such as the batteries and hybrid engine concept. But the company has already developed roadmaps for adapting the new features to existing rules. Nuesseler said he doesn’t anticipate any surprises.

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Jack is a staff writer covering advanced air mobility, including everything from drones to unmanned aircraft systems to space travel—and a whole lot more. He spent close to two years reporting on drone delivery for FreightWaves, covering the biggest news and developments in the space and connecting with industry executives and experts. Jack is also a basketball aficionado, a frequent traveler and a lover of all things logistics.

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