Ampaire Flies Hybrid Skymaster


California-based Ampaire reports that it flew its electric hybrid aircraft this week for the first time and plans an aggressive test program toward commercialization in 2021. The hybrid drive is installed in a Cessna 337 airframe.

The company flew the airplane from Camarillo, California, on Thursday, but has offered little detail on the flight parameters or the nature of the hybrid design, other than to say it’s of parallel architecture. As we reported from the Aero show in Friedrichshafen in April, most electric airplanes thus far are pure electric and only one company, Pipistrel Aircraft, is actually selling electric aircraft. What hybrids have appeared as technology demonstrators have been serial designs, using an internal combustion engine as a range extender. Parallel designs use an electric motor as a power booster, range extender or backup.

Ampaire is developing its technology for the short-haul regional airline market. “Given the urgency of the climate crisis, today’s historic flight not only signifies a huge step forward for aviation, it also shines a light on Los Angeles’s leadership in transportation electrification,” said Matt Petersen, CEO of the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, a development group that Ampaire belongs to.

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  1. How does an electric motor added to the existing 100LL burning Continentals help alleviate the “climate crisis” and offers a “huge step forward for aviation” and “shine’s a light on Los Angeles leadership in transportation electrification”?

    What this parallel hybrid does show is that there are plenty of funds available for anything that suggests “transportation electrification” as demonstrated by Matt Peterson, CEO of the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator’s PC statement. While it remains to be seen Ampaire’s sustainability and ability to develop and market a salable, STC’d parallel hybrid conversion to existing air-frames, it is clear to me, Matt Peterson is just looking for an opportunity for a photo op showing a handshake with a flash of his pearly whites, to show some fruit for his “Cleantech Incubator” in his efforts to provide” transportation electrification”.

    Another “time will tell” aviation “breakthrough”.

  2. As a rational human being (as well as a compassionate one), I would argue that Los Angeles has more of a sanitation crisis than a climate crisis. You can’t save the planet if you can’t save your city. Cool plane though.

  3. I don’t get the negativity here. The Toyota prius was never going to save the planet, creating more pollution during the manufacturing than it could ever repay via reduced lifetime emissions. It was a good exercise however that has been part of a positive process. This 337 airframe has always struck me as perfect for a hybrid arrangement. Obviously the energy density of power storage remains the big issue. But right now, there has to be a useful machine there: one decent diesel engine to run the thing plus a light weight electric set up to boost take offs and give engine-out options. Similar weight to two gasoline engines and fuel, but superior economy.
    It’s small battery recharges in cruise flight. That makes sense to me.

  4. Since California is proud about outlawing diesel engines, diesel hybrids that “make sense” are off the table.
    California also seems proud of getting rid of 100LL and GA airports as fast as legally possible.
    California feels positive about regulating GA out of the state “for the benefit of public safety and health”.

    The stated aim of the project is mass transport; looks like they are just using a GA plane as a tool.

  5. Actually, while hybrid cars take slightly more CO2 to build, they more than make up for it over their lifetime. A Prius will generate about 50% of the CO2 of a conventional car over its lifetime. Note that the Argonne National Lab assumes the car only lasts 160,000 miles. My first Prius went over 200,000 on its original battery pack. Also, Argonne Labs’ assessment uses regional power mixes but in reality 30% of EV drivers get their electricity from rooftop solar panels.

    Whether hybrid drive systems make sense for light aviation remains to be seen, but there is absolutely no doubt that they reduce emissions for automobiles.

    • Interested in the subject, I accepted your “challenge” and TRIED to read the 210 page Argonne Nat’l Labs report. I barely made it through the executive summary before I went bonkers going back and forth trying to decipher the plethora of acronyms and mneumonics making it nearly unreadable. It was obvious that a bunch of PhD’s and aspirants were trying to impress each other and the people who pay them to justify their jobs. What overall gibberish!

      That said,they did analyze the COST of different modes of propulsion and that part was good. It always boils down to cost. And in the charts, an internal combustion engine offered the lowest life cycle costs. They could have written a report analyzing the use of unobtainium in light use vehicles but … what good is that? If the public won’t accept it … it ain’t gonna work. The demise of the Volt — even with Gov’t support — speaks volumes. I drive V8 cars and I reduce my GHG emissions by judicial driving habits. In an airplane, there are even more substantial requirements. I just don’t “get” why people think that electric airplanes are somehow going to save the planet “given the urgency of the climate crisis.” I’m beginning to get the idea that the air quality in SoCal might be causing these people to lose touch with reality?

      As a commenter above already verbalized, maybe they oughta use their energies solving the human crisis in LA, SFO, et al.

  6. Hybrid drive systems are a niche technology, only efficient under certain conditions.
    Diesel cars on the highway are more efficient than gas/hybrid cars on the highway.
    Flying is akin to “highway” mode and that means gas/hybrids are less efficient and more complex.
    Hybrids can increase flight safety in an emergency, but not efficiency.