Diamond Joins The eFray With Plans For An All-Electric eDA40

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With a history of exploring hybrid-electric aircraft technology dating back to 2011, Austria-based Diamond Aircraft has announced it’s aiming for “an all-electric solution to the General Aviation market—the eDA40.” Derived from the existing piston-engine DA40 airframe, Diamond claims the eDA40 will have operating costs as much as 40 percent lower than existing piston aircraft on an endurance of about 90 minutes. Claimed charging time between flights will be 20 minutes, says Diamond. The batteries will be housed in a pod under the belly. Diamond is partnering with battery technology company Electric Power Systems on the eDA40 project. The design will use that company’s EPiC Ecosystem platform to power the eDA40.

The 90-minute flight endurance may be aspirational, however, as Diamond said in its announcement that it expects such endurance “as the battery technologies evolve.” First flight of the eDA40 is planned for the second quarter of 2022, with certification as a Part 23 aircraft targeted for 2023. Nathan Millecam, CEO of Electric Power Systems (EPS), said, “Training aircraft set the stage for demonstrating that electric aircraft can meet the demands of high-paced, high-volume operations at a reduced cost basis. Combining EPS’s battery and electric propulsion know-how with a globally recognized leader in advanced general aviation design and manufacturing, enables the eDA40 to be one of the most notable electric aircraft projects in the world.”

Liqun (Frank) Zhang, CEO of Diamond Aircraft Austria, said the eDA40 will be the first EASA/FAA Part 23 certified electric airplane with DC fast charging and specifically tailored to the flight training market.

Diamond joins two other entrants in the all-electric-aircraft space. In June 2020, Slovenia-based Pipistrel received certification from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) for its Velis Electro, a fully electric version of its two-seat Virus SW 121 and an evolutionary upgrade of the pioneering Alpha Electro trainer. Such as it exists, Pipistrel owns the electric trainer market with nearly 200 airframes in the field. However, due to regulatory hurdles, the model has found limited use as commercial trainer. Last August marked the first U.S flight of a Pipistrel Velis Electro, owned by the Florida Institute of Technology. Since 2018, four Pipistrel Alpha Electros have been operating in a technology demonstration project at Fresno’s Chandler Airport.

Meanwhile, at AirVenture 2021, Colorado-based Bye Aerospace updated its aggressive timeline to certify the battery-powered eFlyer 2 under Part 23. It’s assembling a conforming prototype and expects certification approval by the end of 2022. Bye claims the eFlyer 2 will have an endurance of three hours and a short recharging time if the batteries aren’t entirely depleted. Bye announced last month that KLM Flight Academy in the Netherlands completed purchase deposits for six eFlyer 2s and eight follow-on eFlyer 4s.

Diamond’s research in electric airplanes originally focused on hybrid drives in joint projects with other companies, including Boeing Phantom, Airbus, Siemens and EADs. It modified an HK36 motorglider as a test bed to industrialize airplanes that could reduce fuel consumption and emissions by up to 25 percent. Those projects were launched as early as 2011 when Christian Dries then owned Diamond. It’s not known if the Chinese interests who now own the company will revive those efforts to focus entirely on the battery-operated technology they just announced.

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20 COMMENTS

  1. Thinking about it some more, it’s too bad these companies don’t FIRST focus all these types of efforts into reducing the cost of manufacturing to bring the cost of a new bottom end airplane down from the stratosphere to a point where upper middle class pilots would want AND be able to afford one. The profits from such endeavors could then be used to fuel such research. So called “lean” manufacturing ought to be their focus, not still another cockamamie eTHIS and greenTHAT machine with totally unusable and ridiculous performance numbers!

    With the MOSAIC idea on the horizon (and, per EAA, being positively received by the boys on Independence Ave) there might be some hope that an airplane with decent performance could be produced with a price tag mere mortals could afford. If the FAA — for once — could work proactively with the EAA and come up with a good workable solution to the issues vs. still another NORSEE or “recreational pilot” rule, I believe it is to be possible. Marry a super efficient piston engine that’ll run on MOGAS with an airplane with performance numbers that make it desirable, and they’d have a winner. Putting a pod of batteries below a Diamond ain’t gonna cut the mustard, boys. Save your bucks and use that effort to do something productive.

    I still remember the frenzy in the Cessna tent when they announced they were accepting deposits for the 162 Skycatcher … they succeeded in luring me to part with $5K. At $109.5K, it was $9.5K above the initial projection but still a desirable price since it was coming from Cessna. We all know where that went. All these e-Idea airplanes are gonna go the very same way. BTW: Looking up the info on the 162 on Wiki, I now see that there was nowhere near the 5,000 plus orders for that airplane. Cessna was using a ruse on the number of airplanes sold board they had in their tent.

    • The orders for the 162 were real. I was a Cessna dealer at the time and had 7 on order. When the price increase came around all but one cancelled. Sad day for a plane that could have had a bright future.

    • The 162 turned out to be a bad design on top of the price switch. We all should have seen it coming. They hadn’t designed a new plane in so long, and they have been totally transformed by their environment into something only resembling an airplane company.

    • Totally agree, Larry. Building another million dollar airplane is not going to revive GA. The pool of people and training schools that can afford to buy them is just too small. Most flight schools, like the one at my local airport, buy used planes at prices they can afford and outfit them to suit their students’ needs. The main reason why the 172 is so popular with flight schools (other than their benign flight characteriscts) is that there is a huge pool of them to choose from. I sat in a 162 after they went into production, and was rather shocked at the spartan interior. Uncomfortable seats, not an ounce of sound proofing, poorly fitting everything. I asked one of the flight instructors who had flown it how it flew. He kind of rolled his eyes and said “about the same as it looks”.

      I’ve said in the past that neither Cessna nor Beechraft will ever build a new single engine design, and in fact, has canned a good, but expensive single. Their parent company is too fixated on jets and commercial turboprops, where the “real money” is. Piper has made an attempt, but not sure how long that will last. And, with the current fixation on electric technology, I doubt that anyone else will venture to build an affordable single, even if someone like Rotax developed a “modern” engine in the 160 to 200 hp range.

  2. If it’s for flight training why add a pod? Just put the batteries behind the front seats. Leave room for folding bicycles and give it a secondary purpose as a commuter.

    Also, change the name.

    No, never mind. New plan: sell the company to a free country before communism inevitably makes the safest airplanes into deadly ones.

  3. If the by line was dated 2033 or sometime in the not too distant future the specs might apply. One has to wonder if most of this stuff is woke, virtue signaling to impress some unreported but significant audience such as progressive fools with much more money than sense.