Hybrid electric propulsion aircraft |  A Swedish plane leads the way here and seduces Air Canada

Hybrid electric propulsion aircraft | A Swedish plane leads the way here and seduces Air Canada

Swedish electric commercial planes should cross the Canadian sky in a few years despite the millions given by Quebec and Ottawa to promote the planes of tomorrow. Air Canada chooses Heart Aerospace aircraft to electrify its fleet and becomes a shareholder in the company, a decision that arouses astonishment.

Posted at 10:36 am

Julien Arsenault

Julien Arsenault

Several steps still need to be taken and questions remain unanswered, but the country’s largest airline intends to buy up to 30 planes. The price paid was not disclosed. The order comes with a US$5 million investment in the Swedish startup.

“Why not a Canadian technology? asks aviation expert and McGill University professor John Gradek. It was one of my first questions. We have hundreds of people here working on developing hybrid electric technology. »

The expert, who worked for nearly two decades at Air Canada during his career, said he was “really disappointed” to see the Montreal-based carrier turn to technology from elsewhere to electrify its fleet.

Air Canada and Heart Aerospace declined interview requests for Press, Thursday. Up to 30 passengers can board the ES-30. Its autonomy is estimated at 200 kilometers using only battery technology. It increases with the entry of generators that run on sustainable aviation fuel.

The young Swedish shoot already has clients. United Airlines and Mesa Air Group had already agreed last year to purchase 200 units of the first version of the prototype. They will receive ES-30.

In advance

The Heart Aerospace project is considered one of the most advanced in the hybrid electric aircraft niche. Eviation has already deployed a prototype aircraft, but it could only seat nine passengers. In British Columbia, Harbor Air was able to conduct test flights with an electric seaplane.

Additionally, Pratt & Whitney Canada and de Havilland have been collaborating since the summer of 2021 to implement hybrid electric propulsion on a Dash 8-100 aircraft. The engine manufacturer had received almost 70 million from the Legault and Trudeau governments as part of the project.

A prototype was to be presented in 2024. The first assembly line will be established in Sweden.

“I am ambivalent about [la décision d’Air Canada]explains Jacques Roy, professor of transport management at HEC Montréal. Knowing that there is a Canadian project on the table, I find it less interesting to see Air Canada getting involved with a foreign company. »

Quebec and Ottawa did not comment on the news. According to our information, the federal government intends to monitor the repercussions of the largest airline in the country.

Not for now

If all goes according to plan, the ES-30, which has yet to complete its maiden flight and certification clearing it to fly, should enter service with Air Canada starting in 2028. The 200 km range would allow devices to be deployed in routes such as Montreal/Toronto and Vancouver/Victoria, explained the company, taking care to specify that these are examples.

This interest in regional slots surprises experts, who note that the airline has tended to abandon these routes in recent years.


Former Air Canada executive John Gradek is an aviation expert and professor at McGill University.

There are no more than 20 markets in Canada where Heart planes would work. We should have waited to consider devices that can connect, for example Montreal and Toronto [700 km] as well as Calgary and Edmonton.

John Gradeck

Richard Aboulafia, from the American firm AeroDynamic Advisory, sees an interesting potential in the ES-30, but nothing indicates that the adventure will be crowned with success.

“The question is, what will the operating cost per seat per mile be? explains the analyst. The game is worth it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we asked for grants to be able to use the device. »

Responsible for more than 2% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions worldwide, the airline industry is often singled out for its impact on the environment. In Canada, according to data from Transport Canada, absolute GHG emissions have increased by 53.2% over the last decade.

Currently, the weight of the batteries limits the range of an electric aircraft. Giants like Airbus are currently working on aircraft projects whose engines would be powered by liquid hydrogen to get around the weight problem.

The ES-30

  • Autonomy: 200km
  • Autonomy in hybrid mode: 400 km and 800 km with 25 passengers
  • Propulsion: Four engines
  • Maximum altitude: 20,000 feet
  • Charging time: between 30 and 50 minutes

More information

  • $19.11
    Air Canada’s share price closed on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Thursday. The stock gained 2%, or 39 cents.

    tmx group

    Air Canada says it can be carbon neutral within about a quarter of a century.

    air canada

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