The future of air transport is (hybrid) electric: green and silent

News - 12 June 2017

Aircraft manufacturer Pipistrel, Compact Dynamics, DLR, TU Delft, the University of Ulm, H2Fly, Politecnico di Milano and the University of Maribor have joined forces to work on environmentally friendly hybrid-electric airplanes. Their Horizon 2020 research project MAHEPA aims to improve propulsion efficiency, address climate change, pollution, noise and adverse effects of air transport by introducing new powertrain solutions. The modular power train components they will develop will power two four-passenger hybrid electric airplanes scheduled to fly in 2020. The MAHEPA partners will present their project publicly for the first time at the Paris Air Show scheduled to take place from 19 to 25 June 2017. 

MAHEPA - Modular Approach to Hybrid-Electric Propulsion Architecture – is a research project aimed at tackling current limitations of electrically powered aircraft by introducing new serial hybrid-electric powertrains. The project will develop new components in a modular way to power two four-passenger hybrid electric airplanes scheduled to fly in 2020. The first will be equipped with a hybrid powertrain utilizing an internal combustion engine and the second will be a fuel cell hybrid powered aircraft, showcasing the possibilities for zero-emission long distance flight as concrete example of this innovative propulsion technology.

The project partnership aims to boost research in the field of low emission propulsion technology to open up possibilities for series production of greener airplanes in order to support European environmental goals in aviationThe main result of MAHEPA project will be novel, modular and scalable hybrid-electric powertrains capable of running on alternative fuels or on hydrogen with zero emissions. These powertrains are the key technology for future hybrid aircraft enabling economical and environmentally sustainable air travel. Within MAHEPA not only new technologies will be developed, but also regulatory implications, airport infrastructure requirements, airspace procedural practices, operational safety, operating costs and emission models will be studied resulting in a unique outlook for regulators, aviation industry, operators and investors. On 15th and 16th May 2017 the kick-off meeting for the MAHEPA project was held at Pipistrel’s headquarters at Ajdovscina (Slovenia). 

Ivo Boscarol, CEO of PIPISTREL, says:

 “Hybrid-electric propulsion will change the way we travel. Pipistrel flew the world’s first two seat electric aircraft more almost exactly ten years ago. Since, battery performance has more than doubled, but the near future long-range flight will be enabled by a combination of batteries and range extending technologies. In project MAHEPA we are contributing to the development of two different four passenger aircraft which will be thoroughly tested in flight. This alone is a historic milestone, but with the envisioned scalability of hybrid electric propulsion technology we will soon see much larger environmentally friendly aircraft capable of flying 19 or more passengers across practical distances.”

Prof.Dr.Ir. Leo Veldhuis Chair of the Flight Performance and Propulsion section at TU Delft, says:

“The support of project MAHEPA by the European commission is the evidence of the belief in development of innovative and promising developments in aircraft propulsion. The next decade will see the introduction of electric and hybrid-electric aircraft that will not only make aircraft more fuel efficient but also more silent. The development of demonstrators at small aircraft level, within MAHEPA, will be the stepping stone towards larger passenger aircraft in which very likely technology will be adopted that is developed in this project. Delft University of Technology is excited to embark on the MAHEPA mission to provide the aircraft design framework and propulsion system scaling studies to support the realization of game changing demonstrators”.

Project MAHEPA, has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 723368.

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For additional information please contact Dr. Fabrizio Oliviero or the email address