Diamond Predicting 20-Minute Charge For Electric eDA40

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Diamond Aircraft says the electrified version of its DA40 single will have up to a 90-minute endurance and charge time of 20 minutes. The company announced on Wednesday it has chosen Safran’s ENGINeUS electric motor to power the eDA40. “With Safran we are having an expert partner for electric propulsion systems aboard,” said Liqun (Frank) Zhang, CEO, Diamond Aircraft Industries Austria. “The smart motor’s state-of-the-art technology including smart features paired with a well-advanced certification process is the logical choice for our eDA40. We are looking forward to the first flights scheduled for end 2022.”

Diamond announced the program last October. The aircraft is aimed at the training market and Diamond is predicting a 40 percent decrease in operating costs for flight schools. The 90-minute endurance likely won’t be achieved immediately but will be possible as battery technology evolves. Diamond is predicting certification for the motor by mid-2023 and basic EASA certification of the aircraft in late 2023 or early 2024.

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44 COMMENTS

  1. A few thoughts:

    “… Diamond is predicting a 40 percent decrease in operating costs for flight schools.”

    Over what time frame? 10 years? 20 years?

    Does this estimate include the cost of paying the power company to install high capacity electrical service for the charging station(s)? (Plural, because even if one aircraft doesn’t require additional capacity, a flight school will have more than one aircraft. Unless the plan is to charge them one at a time, more capacity will be needed to charge the fleet.)

    Does it include the cost of electricity during Peak Demand times? (Assuming that the grid is up in the hot summer time in California and/or your Smart Meter doesn’t restrict your consumption.)

    “The 90-minute endurance likely won’t be achieved immediately, but will be possible as battery technology evolves.” Is the cost of new batteries (and the cost of disposal of the old ones) included in the estimate of a 40 percent decrease in operating costs?

    What is the lifetime of the batteries? (For reference, there are good quality LiFePO4 batteries today that are guaranteed for 3000 cycles or 10 years – but that guarantee only means that they will not degrade below 80% capacity in those 10 years. So I expect that Operators would have to replace the batteries every 5 years or so to stay near 100%.)

    “Diamond Aircraft says the electrified version of its DA40 single will have up to a 90-minute endurance …”

    When I was instructing, a typical lesson in the pattern was 1 hour. (Mostly due to student saturation.) A typical lesson to the practice area was 1.3. (Time spent traveling to and fro.) Since a 30 minute reserve is required for VFR flights, the promised 90 minute limit won’t be enough for flights to the practice area. It will be just enough for T’n’G’s.

    So at best, it will be a T’n’G airplane only.

    Cross countries took longer. (Obviously.) 3+ hours. What are the odds that there will be charging stations at airports along the way? And again, legs would be limited to 1 hour each, to allow for the 30 minute “fuel” reserve.

    So it will never be a XC airplane.

    —————
    About 10 to 15 years ago, at an air fair somewhere in California (or maybe it was a Silver Springs, NV), I met a guy who had started a flight school using electric aircraft. He told me that California was offering a million dollar grant for someone to do this. So, on a lark, he applied. And to his surprise, he was given the grant.

    I don’t know what happened after that. This was so long ago that I would expect that today’s report of Diamond’s new electric plane would be Old News. Or that his flight school would be famous for being the first to use electric planes. (Headline: “First student solos in electric airplane.” “First student graduates from Flight School in all electric airplane.”)

    I dunno. I expect that, like Solyndra which was similarly funded, he’s out of business.

    While electric promises a lot, it doesn’t deliver. That’s the Bottom Line. And viable companies live or die by the Bottom Line.

    • Excellent summary of why this is nothing more than some sort of technology demonstration. Until there is a significant improvement is battery volumetric and gravimetric power density, electric aviation is going to fill the needs of only a small niche.

      All the cost analyses I have seen completely ignore the cost of capital for the higher cost of the aircraft and for the charging infrastructure. (“Solar energy is free!!” Well, yeah, once you pay the very substantial cost of the installation.) I had a long email exchange with someone at Pipestrel a few years ago about their Alpha Electro trainer. They were trying to show a big cost advantage by comparing it to a 40-year-old Cessna 150. When you did a comparison to their own Rotax-powered Alpha – which is a very fair side-by-side comparison, and considered ALL the costs, the advantage was not so significant, and the downsides were many.

  2. I urge the FAA to remain steady with the rules for fuel reserve. Running out of fuel continues to be a big problem. Bending the rules to accommodate electric aircraft would be a step in the wrong direction.

    Furthermore, although it is generally well hidden, battery output declines and battery stress increases near depletion. This means less HP is available for a “go around” and battery damage will occur.

    • True.

      Avgas will produce full power with a full tank or 1/8.

      Also we get the benefit of a lighter airplane with better performance and less than full tanks.

      An e-plane has to carry its massive battery at the same weight all the way into the ground

  3. The 2 biggest theories that were over sold is “as battery technology evolves” and human evolution. Batteries are not evolving. It is chemistry, which means you are stuck with the materials at hand. That cannot change. If you make an improvement in one area – you will give up on the other end. A “20 minute” charge time will greatly lower the cycle life. Will customers like buying a new battery pack after 100 charges or less? The only hope for electric power is to produce it onboard. Our system will show how it is done at Oshkosh in July.

  4. I’ll never fly an electric-drive airplane.

    But that’s because my ticket is old enough to collect social security, and I don’t expect the technology to be readily (and affordably) available in my remaining time. It will happen though, for all the reasons that so much R&D money is being thrown at it. The initial buy-in will be high, but it will drop sharply when nanotech chemistry makes high power density / quick recovery batteries affordable.

    Aviation history is full of armchair experts who declared, “That’ll never fly.” Thank goodness Igor Sikorsky and Burt Rutan didn’t listen to them. No one remembers the naysayers’ names now.

    • It’s too bad no one remembers the naysayers. Might be fun to go back to the old letters and articles to read the comments and spotlight the old know-it-alls.

      Might be a good reminder to keep comments constructive.

    • They accomplished what they did because of their drive and intelligence and the fact that the materials were available.

      The materials to make better batteries do not exist. Fuel cells have a chance, but I doubt will ever match fuel in terms of power price efficiency.

  5. There are promising battery technologies a few years away that could make these aircraft viable as more than just technology demonstrators. Solid-state batteries, that double energy density, are starting testing with car manufacturers now (https://www.thedrive.com/tech/42287/toyota-is-road-testing-a-prototype-solid-state-battery-ev). And Lithium Sulfur batteries, which have 3-5 times the energy density are making huge strides to becoming viable for vehicles (https://www.techtimes.com/articles/271897/20220216/holy-grail-batteries-lithium-sulfur-power-cells-three-times-capacity.htm).

    So, the battery tech *will* make these viable aircraft for training, and more. It makes sense for the technology to be developed, and more importantly certified, now with the idea that just upgrading the batteries will double or triple (or more) the range.

    Also, these are existing gas powered aircraft being retro-fitted with electric engines, which must be inefficient engineering, but probably faster to get to market. I imagine aircraft designed as electric from the get-go will be even better.

    Textron wouldn’t have purchased Pipistrel if this route wasn’t promising. I, for one, would love to own a plane someday that costs 1/10th the amount to run per hour! Wouldn’t you?

    • Producing a demo in the lab, or for a short test drive is WAY different than producing a battery that can be produced in volume and meet the requirements of the real world. For example, current lithium-sulfur batteries have great energy density, but terrible life in terms of charge cycles. My completely unscientific prediction is that it will be many years before we have a practical battery technology that doubles volumetric or gravimetric energy density compared to what is available today.

    • Um, its always ‘pie in the sky’ – IOW ‘tomorrow’.

      As for Textron buying Pipestril, it is good politics – pandering to politicians, and perhaps good airplanes without electrics in a category below what the sell now.

  6. “The 90-minute endurance likely won’t be achieved immediately but will be possible as battery technology evolves.” Me too! I am going to live 150 years as medicine evolves. Okay, okay, so maybe not in my present lifetime.

    • Even if they could pull off 90 minutes that is only 60 in day VFR and only a fool allows only 30 minute reserve.

      My personal minimum is an hour, and almost always twice that.

      So, even with the best pie in the sky prediction and the lease conservative reserves, this is a 30 minute proposition.

  7. I’m all for experimentation and advancement. However I do have issues with an all-electric training plane. First, the overwhelming majority of aircraft are, and will continue to be, operated by aviation fuels. A good part of training for a student is how to manage the engine and fuel. So you still need to have training in a conventional aircraft unless you want to restrict a pilot to electric-only aircraft. Second, if you want to reduce fuel consumption in training aircraft, extended use of simulators would probably give you more bang for the buck. Thirdly, you can save a lot more fuel and increase reliability and safety by passing restricted liability laws to allow legacy manufacturers to certify retrofit electronic, vacuum, fuel and ignition systems without fear of getting sued out of business. That’s the kind of all-electric aircraft I could support.

      • Also for a plane to be viable to produce it has to more than a one trick pony.

        Even if it can be used for pattern work it would also need to be a decent cross country plane and sport plane to appeal to enough people to be profitable.

        Even if a flight school could wait to charge the thing that would be of no benefit in the backcountry or at 99.9% of airports.

  8. Reading the many criticisms of the future of electric aircraft technology remind me of why GA is in the trouble it is in today and why we have trouble attracting young people to it and why a new C-172 cost $400k. Many of these comments offer no insight into the solutions that we need to solve these problems but rather seek to justify the critics point of view. I’m reminded of a speech by Theodore Roosevelt.

    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

    Saying no and being a critic is easy, saying yes, accepting risk, and doing the hard work to create something new is hard. John F Kennedy said it this way.

    “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win… ”

    I’m tired of listening to critics with no skin in the game and no solutions.

  9. I agree the price of flying is prohibitive, but the least of it is fuel.

    Also the price of fuel is artificially elevated with taxes and government intervention and reduction of production, all of which can be addressed with a different administration.

    Fixing this is easier than pursuing a phantom battery strategy which is not chemically possible.

    Fossil fuel is plentiful, and America can be energy independent with judicious drilling and increased production.

  10. As for being “critical”: An Old Man story: When I was in High School, Adv Bio, we had a fruit fly lab assignment. We were to map out the genes for eye color. One particular set of data was baffling, and didn’t fit the text book stuff we had learned.

    One kid spoke up one day and said “It’s gene lethals!” I was the loudest one in the room who laughed.

    But he was right.

    Even since that day, I never laugh at people with ‘crazy’ ideas.

    Having said that, an an Engineer, I live in the Real World. That is not only a Mechanical one, but an Economic one. And so I think critically. (As in ‘critical thinking,’ which is NOT a pejorative.)

    So, as for making a helicopter: I don’t know that I would have been a naysayer. I might have been critical of the challenges of balancing a pencil on its point, power to weight ratio (do you have a power plant big enough, but light enough?), longevity of materials, etc. They are still very high maintenance (expensive) machines to operate.

    While going to the Moon was neat, and there was nothing in Physics that said it couldn’t be done, it was done for politics. If it were Economical, Elon would be looking into how to do it today. I still ask Why we did it. (To beat the Russians? Really?)

    As for Rutan, well, another neat idea. But 1) how many Long Eze’s do you see nowadays? It seems to me that the Cirrus (or a Van’s RV) is more popular. 2) Beechcraft scrapped (literally) the Starship. 3) When I worked for Cessna (which was when the Starship was in development) we asked the then CEO of Cessna (Russ Somebody) if Cessna was going to make a pusher. He was “critical” of the design, and explained why it wasn’t practical. (Despite the fact that it was stall proof.) While I thought that he was a “naysayer” at the time, he was right.

    So, thinking critically now, one fundamental problem with elementally derived electricity is the fact that it makes low voltage reactions. (Be it from batteries or solar cells.) Which means that they have to be high current in order to obtain any meaningful power from them. Which brings a whole host of problems. There is a reason that power companies use 345 kV to transmit power. And so Don L. is on the right track if he is going with a Diesel Train/Prius Hybrid model to generate (and deliver) power.

    I won’t go into the economics of going “green” because I think that I would be wasting everyone’s time. This is an ideological issue, the Left’s religion (and beliefs) as opposed to Reality. In the end, money will decide who’s right here. (Even now John Kerry and Al Gore, et al. fly in Jet-A burning jets.)

    But, hey, my critics (irony) – feel free to prove me wrong and bring a cheap battery powered plane to the masses (without a govt subsidy) that, like Henry Ford’s Model T, everyone will want to buy. In the world of Engineering, THAT is really the proof of a good design. (The Segway was cool. But a failure.)

  11. “…a phantom battery strategy which is not chemically possible.” And there, in just a few words, is why pure electric aircraft are doomed to remain a niche application. Yes, battery improvements may eventually lengthen the hoped-for 90 minutes to…what? Two hours? Possibly even a bit more?

    But then what? Elaborate workarounds like stockpiled quick change battery packs may work to make electric primary trainers acceptable, at least in the technical sense, but the range/payload problem for longer distance flight simply isn’t going to go away.

  12. People laughed at Tesla’s seemingly hopeless attempt to build an electric car that would have a reasonable range and recharging infrastructure – they’re not laughing anymore.
    Patience and tenacity will also lead to a clear electric path for GA.

  13. They successfully built a poor quality car that sells to a particular type of individual but without a wide appeal to motoring enthusiasts.

    In the long run, not a good example of success. Much of their profit comes form government hand outs and grifting of carbon taxes placed on other manufactures.

    Also without government loans and handouts and taking money form other taxpayers to help finance toy cars for rich people, they would have gone bankrupt.

    Also the immense weight of a battery pack can be hidden (for the most part) in a car, but an airplane needs to lift that weight.

    A Tesla only needs to transport it to the next accident scene at a fork in the road or emergency vehicle, or as we have seen here, a private jet.

  14. A better example of an electric car would be the Mercedes EQS/EQE, the Audi E-Tron, the Jaguar i-Pace, the Porsche Taycan, Cadillac Lyriq, and the Lucid Air. Even the ‘Mustang’ Mach-E. Nissan Leaf and Chevy Bolt are better for what they are, especially for the money, without some of the negatives that Tesla brings to the table.

    Tesla quality, engineering, and frankly image and looks leave too much to be desired.

  15. There seems to be a some theory that the manufacturers and the government want to reduce reserves to help make electric planes marketable.

    Is this just a silly straw man, or has there actually been any discussions?