CAE, Piper To Develop Archer Electric Conversion Kit


CAE announced at the Farnborough International Air Show that it is working with Piper Aircraft to develop an electric propulsion conversion kit for the Piper PA-28-181 Archer. The company says it plans to convert two-thirds of its Archer training fleet along with creating a curriculum to train new pilots on electric aircraft operation. Development of the conversion kit is part of CAE’s Project Resilience, through which the company, in partnership with the Government of Canada and the Government of Quebec, is investing C$1 billion over five years to “develop aviation and cross-sectoral digital technologies of the future.”

“The development of this technology is a first for CAE,” said CAE President and CEO Marc Parent. “As an engineering powerhouse and one of the largest Piper Archer operators, CAE is uniquely positioned to make electric-powered flight a reality at our flight schools and beyond. CAE’s partnership with the Government of Canada and the Government of Quebec for investment into R&D has enabled us to boldly look to the future and prepare our electric aircraft for take-off.”

According to CAE, it intends to work with Pipier on the conversion kit supplemental type certificate (STC) as well as “training and support services required for the operation of electrified Piper Archer aircraft.” The kit is expected to use Safran’s ENGINeUS 100 electric smart motor and a battery system provided by Swiss-based H55. A time frame for the project was not announced.

Kate O'Connor
Kate O’Connor works as AVweb's Editor-in-Chief. She is a private pilot, certificated aircraft dispatcher, and graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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  1. Range?
    Recharge time?
    Number of cycles before battery looses usefulness?
    Certification status?
    Takeoff performance data?


    • Lol comments like this one are so predictable. Guess it shows how aging the pilot population is. Another reason we need more affordable training.

      • Next there will be one dissing the “so-called environmental crisis”.
        CAE’s remaining 1/3 ICE birds will do the long XC work but I see no reason the 2/3 can’t handle local <2hour flights on voltage especially if the conversion incorporates quick-change battery trays [as my next homebuilt will]. Will there be a "Ludicrous" button for go-arounds?
        The Canadian influence is already showing up in the revised spelling of that Vero firm's name in Para 3. [Imagine Peter Sellers pronouncing it as Inspector Clouseau: "pee-pee-yay!"]

        • Wrong thinking.

          New things are often poorly designed, expensive, over-hyped, ….

          Some of us have seen it all before, have scars.

          And read history of how long it took new things to succeed and become widespread – the ‘fax’ machine method of transmitting documents over telephone wires – very slow and expensive so only sizeable offices used them. Years later almost every office could afford oe and transmission time was roughly 1/10th of original.

      • Can you imagine if they’d been around when Wilbur and Orville were just starting?

        “What? I have to carry it to the top of a hill and run with it? It’ll never fly Orville.”

      • Age? I’m probably younger than 80% of this website’s readers and I still think this is nonsense. Unless some new gamechanging battery technology comes out this is absolutely not practical and will hobble the aircraft in every objective way. The next big thing in batteries is perpetually “5-10 years away!” I’m a M.E. and I work in aerospace, numbers in aviation are kinda something I do and technology is definitely not something you can accuse me of being afraid of. This is just gaming for green energy money, EV tech is definitely not at the level where you can just convert a regular old ICE powered airplane and have something better. The best lithium batteries on the market have a small fraction of the energy density of gasoline, a limited lifespan which is exacerbated by depth of discharge and charging rate, and they don’t get any lighter as the charge depletes. This plane will likely be heavier, have less endurance than and have worse performance than a standard piper archer, and it may not even be cheaper over the lifespan of the aircraft because of the positively massive cost of certified batteries. Ever been to a big flight school? I have, the planes are used back to back unless they get pulled for maintenance or flights get weathered. Unless the battery life is enough for a day of continuous training use the downtime will be higher than with the old ICE. You think an O-360 is expensive to overhaul? Place your bets on how much 100kWh worth of certified lithium batteries, addled by being run hard and charged fast, will cost to replace.

    • I’ll agree with William: What is CAE for those of us that don’t live in Canada?
      And what about some target performance specifications? Without them it does sound like someone’s pipe dream.

      • CAE is in the pork barrel pocket of Quebec Canada.

        Long established maker of flight simulators, now worldwide and surprise! into initial training. Plus maintainers and ‘rear crew’ which I think means operators of military surveillance equipment onboard and F/A’s (website links to detail don’t work). Offerings vary with location around the world.

        Better to invest in infrastructure to

    • Even most of those questions are variable with ICEs. Range depends on what power setting you use, and often environmental conditions (weather, temperature, etc). Weight is variable with how much fuel you carry, and even the weight of the fuel itself varies depending on temperature. And over time, ICEs start to lose power as components wear out. And fuel can leak into the cockpit and fuel tanks can rupture in crashes, spilling fuel and causing a fire hazard.

      And ironically, internal combustion engines are literally vaporware (it’s the fuel vapor that burns, not the liquid form).

      ICEs have over a century of development, and we’re just starting to reach the peak of their development. Electric propulsion has really only been developing over the past 30 or so years, and there’s no reason to think further developments wouldn’t push the technology farther. It is inevitable that ICEs will eventually be replaced with something else.

      Kudos to those who are potentially paving the way to the future, just as those who paved the way for powered heavier-than-air flight had to fight against the naysayers who said it was impossible.

  2. “I’ve come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies,” writes Douglas Adams in The Salmon of Doubt.

    1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.

    2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.

    3. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.

    • Good pull, as the young ones say.

      In the Middle Ages, the guilds and cartels controlling a given industry would use the crown and the church to stifle innovations they feared threatened their members.

      In present day Long Beach, CA, you can observe the same thing with the unions using the labor laws to keep automation out of the port. Only now, it’s called “progressive” to support their efforts. It’s rational to fear innovation and possible lost jobs, but it seems even more crazy to invoke progress than it did for our ancestors to invoke God.

      From the blog on this very site about 100UL, it seems us folks in the flying business, with only about a century of existence have already “progressed” to Middle Age thinking.

    • As far as reacting to new technologies, first there will have to be new technology.
      There have been electric vehicles around longer that gas ones.
      There have been electric airplanes too.
      Making an old crate airplane fly like an old crate airplane with batteries is not a leap in technology nor new technology. Change for change sake is not progress at all.

  3. Perhaps they should put more effort in keeping the wings on the Archer, instead of working on a different powerplant…lol.

  4. the long term ownership costs of electric propulsion could be a real factor to make this a practical option. the cost of maintenance for an IC engine is a substantial factor in the operating costs. for training situations where the average flight is in the order of an hour or so Electric could be a real solution for the training fleet. especially if they can solve the quick charge problem. a company that is developing a large Vtol aircraft for short range package hauling uses a battery bank to recharge its batteries in a few minutes. a retrofit is a good option for this niche as there is a huge pool of quality airframes that can save a substantial amount of money compared to building new aircraft.

    • “…especially if they can solve the quick charge problem…”

      What problem? Unobtanium-ion batteries re-charge in less than two minutes.

      • Unobtainium has been impossible to import since the Ukrainian situation. Better to use swappable battery packs for now.

  5. Change is always hard. Fully autonomous passenger carrying drones will be arriving about the same time as the volt powered Cherokees (which will be obsolete when they arrive). In 10 years rated pilots will be sharing the airspace with non-rated drone pilots. In 20 years one of the family cars will be replaced with an autonomous drone. Yup your drone will be a Ford , KIA etc.

    The really big question is why CAE isn’t pushing to teach primary flight training in simulators. This is the future of flight training, not “sparky the wonder-Cherokee”. Why not do 80% of the PPL in the box? Negate the need to convert the Cherokee…eh…….

    God bless.

    • “The really big question is why CAE isn’t pushing to teach primary flight training in simulators.”

      Actually, the future of “primary flight training” is learning how to say “Alexa, please fly us to Cleveland.”

  6. I would love to have such a conversion on my PA28-180. The Safran ENGINeUS 100 produces 200HP peak power and weighs only 66 pounds (with fully integrated controller). That’s 216 pounds lighter than the dry weight of an O-360 (before accounting for oil and other accessories like exhaust, oil cooler, fuel pumps, etc.) Not to mention, no more oil changes, no more spark plugs, no more magnetos, no more alternators, etc. High performance, very low maintenance, no vibrations, and no more expensive 100LL! I know it will be 10 years before this will come our way, but I’ll be first in line when it does. And by then we may have Li-Sulfur batteries with energy densities 5x of current Li-Ion, so those 1hr flight times will grow to 5hr.

    Of course the AvWeb peanut gallery isn’t going to like this.

    • Then there is also the weight of the battery, controller, cooling system and large gauge copper wiring. These can weight over 1,000 lb, depending on kWhr needed.

      FYI, the Tesla 100 kWhr battery weighs 1,100 lb.!

    • @Daniel T.

      I’m with you- I’d also like to make the change eventually for my PA28-151, but this is at least 10+ years away as you mentioned. Right about the time when I’ll need an MOH. I’ll be second in line behind you I suppose.

      The peanut gallery appear to be adjusting their tinfoil hats accordingly based on the usual responses from the usual crowd.

  7. Logic is irrelevant with respect to climate change. It’s a form of mass psychosis which is magnified by emotional tribalism. Pointing out the flaws in this grand conversion plan will get you skewered by wide eyed ideologues who refuse to acknowledge basic physics.

    They can’t destroy general aviation quickly enough.

    • By far the best way to destroy GA is to assume that things will always be as they always have been and thus refuse to adapt. Cheers to CAE, Piper, and so many others who are trying new things and recognizing that the world of the future looks different from the world of yesterday.

    • Yes, because there’s always a conspiracy behind everything, and they’re waiting to destroy everything.

  8. I’m always impressed how the armchair experts here at AVweb know so much more about electric power (and climate change) than the people who are putting their money and their careers into them full-time.

    • You mean politicians?

      (Had to steal their thunder)

      I’m all for people putting their own time and money into these projects.

      • Politicians? They ain’t doing diddly.
        I’m talking about the entrepreneurs and engineers and scientists who are actually doing stuff.

        • It’s a joke. If you are one who believes that all the electric aircraft projects are wastes of other people’s money, then you think the people putting their time and money into them are only the politicians (and I guess con men).

          I guess this means it wasn’t funny. Darn.

  9. Here’s what’s confusing me: There are training planes made in Canada that could be more easily made to work for this.

    If you are using government money, you’d think you’d support the local team.

  10. The first thing to notice is they are doing this with “free” government a.k.a. tax payer money. It is amazing what can be proposed and maybe even accomplished with enough free money.
    With respect to the ICE powered aircraft and fuel fires, carrying a 1,000 lb Li-ion battery is also a significant fire hazard in a crash. If you don’t think so just check out some Youtube videos.
    As for flight schools, the electric power option makes operational sense, but then what happens to pilots who end up with ICE planes. A big part of learning to fly is power plant management and operations and electric is very different from ICE power.

  11. I don’t have an issue with people developing packages that will really only be practical in the next generation of batteries. I have an issue with gov’t money used for it, but if it allows people to get around the pattern for $20/hr I don’t have an issue with it at all.

    Not much different to teach people to do turns and patterns in an electric or a fixed pitch prop. Neither prepares one for a high performance or turbine, but simplifies the acquisition of the other stick and rudder skills.

  12. Assuming it actually comes to pass that they actually put a few in service, it would be interesting to hear an unbiased account of what the real-world operational experience turns out to be. Doubtful that information would ever surface though.