Tecnam ‘Postpones’ All-Electric P-Volt Development Program


Tecnam announced this morning it is suspending developmental work on its all-electric P-Volt. “Tecnam has concluded that the time for P-Volt is not yet ripe,” the company announced, “although research activities will continue to explore new emerging technologies.”

Capua, Italy-based Tecnam’s previous research involving electric flight includes the H3ps hybrid aircraft, based on its P2010 four-seat piston model. The company asserts it has examined energy storage issues and “realistic” five-year developments. Tecnam said it excludes “technological revolutions that no one can speculate on.”

Tecnam expressed concern over the performance of batteries at the end of their service life and the effect that scenario would have on industry acceptance of the technology. “The proliferation of aircraft with ‘new’ batteries would lead to unrealistic mission profiles that would quickly degrade after a few weeks of operation, making the all-electric passenger aircraft a mere ‘Green Transition flagship’ rather than a real player in the decarbonization of aviation.”

By Tecnam’s calculations, even the most optimistic projections, involving slow charge cycles and potential caps on the maximum charge level per cycle, show that storage capacity would fall below 170 watt-hours per kilogram of battery weight. “Only a few hundred flights would drive operators to replace the entire storage unit, with a dramatic increase in direct operating costs due to the reserves for battery replacement prices,” according to the company’s statement.

Tecnam Chief R&D Officer Fabio Russo said, “It has always been our culture to commit to achievable goals with customers and operators, and we intend to keep that promise. We hope that new technologies will make businesses viable sooner rather than later, and we have real confidence in our partners’ ability to bring highly valuable products to the zero-emission powertrain and energy storage arena.”

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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  1. Now if we could just get the endless stream of “vaporware” VTOL manufacturers with insane people mover ideas to do the same UNTIL battery technology matches their nutty ideas.

  2. It would be interesting to have a “Futures Market” on the future viability and certification on many of these “Dreamware” projects. Those that REALLY BELIEVE the hype could buy options on the stock early–if the project DID deliver, they would make a killing.

    The “Futures Market” would also be a barometer of the REAL public confidence of the proposed aircraft. As it is, we are bombarded with the unproven and uncertified “hype by press release”–and the projects usually fade silently away.

    A “Futures Market” would be a bonanza for those able to pick the winners from the wanna-be’s for electric airplanes.

  3. Meanwhile, thousands of engineers with a basic understanding of energy storage are saying, “I saw this coming.”

  4. That looks like a flimsy excuse to stop the development of a currently impossible aircraft.
    But will it satisfy the investors ?
    As an electrical engineer, until a battery is developed that has 10x the energy density in kWhrs per kg, none of the aircraft in development will fly ‘far’.
    Even then, the recharging infrastructure at airports will need a huge upgrade in capacity.

    • Great point, Jim. Just look at the current dilemma of the FAA saying they’re gonna approve use of 91UL. Great. BUT … where’s the infrastructure to support 91UL and 100LL? OR — for that matter — to support leaded and unleaded fuel. It AIN’T there! Dream all ya want … it AIN’T there.

  5. Tecnam isn’t exactly known for being full of bloomy 3d generated shine and glory and the companies management isn’t exactly known to burn investors money into thin smoke.

    Stopping a project before it is hyped up beyond all recognition, just to ride on the E-Everything bandwagon, could just be sound and solid business management skill.

    Reality may not always be as beautiful or charming, however, it always wins in the end. Research yes, eyes wide open, yes. Dreaming… and telling people that something currently impossible is possible…. no!

  6. Ironically refreshing to see a proven/established OEM admit that they’re not going to deliver what they’d hoped to and be upfront and clear. Electrically based powerplants are clearly the future for light GA and so we’ll just have to wait for that miracle energy source breakthrough…in the meantime, investors with interests in other wholly electrically based airborne vehicles will no doubt be asking some awkward questions in the next few weeks and months. Canary in the coalmine?

  7. All the usual naysaying, head-in-the-sand luddites emerging in the comments section as usual on this subject, I see.

    Obviously, with battery technology where it is currently, battery-powered aircraft are no match for long-haul aircraft but they are already a serious contender for short-haul operations… which is half the air-miles currently done in the USA.

    • Interesting comments about range but, in the USA, there is an FAA requirement for 30 minutes endurance at landing. The Pipistrel electric, which is touted as a training platform, claims an hour of endurance on a charge. That leaves thirty minutes for training and that is not sufficient endurance for credible training.

      I’m all for electrics when there is battery capacity, and I understand the need for development of the aircraft before the fuel source is available, but calling folks who don’t agree with the hype luddites just marks you as an… Well, you know who/what you are.

      • According to Pipistrel’s brochure (downloadable from their website), the maximum endurance is fifty minutes PLUS VFR reserve.

    • Battery pack density would need to be about 1500wh/kg in order to start being a serious contender on very short routes (sub 30 min). Current packs are about 250wh/kg, with Amprius claiming 450 wh/kg cells (not packs).

      So most likely 20+ years to go, and much longer for long haul. Hopefully SAF or hydrogen solves those problems in the mean time.

  8. “The proliferation of aircraft with ‘new’ batteries would lead to unrealistic mission profiles that would quickly degrade after a few weeks of operation, making the all-electric passenger aircraft a mere ‘Green Transition flagship’ rather than a real player in the decarbonization of aviation.”

    Talk about an eBuzzkill!

  9. Guess it is the fast discharge from full to empty which Tecnam found caused the problems. Electric cars do not seem to have it — there are 10 year old models, used every day, which still have over 90% of their capacity. But then they are not run full power through take off and climb.
    Looks like hybrid will get there first — but that requires lots of calculations. Toyota Prius, while good for a petrol (gas) car consumption wise, got thumped by diesels…

  10. I have to wonder if the factors leading to the decision include market circumstances – such as shrinkage of the pool of potential buyers.

  11. According to the “Last Generation” doctrine, everyone financially capable of getting behind the security gate of any airport is to blame for the planets untimely (yet imminent) implosion. The “Rich” are the new target, the manner of propulsion in use will not absolve the defendant from getting punished. IOW, ypur plane will be painted and abused, regardless of the size of its battery…

    This freakshow will not end until morale improves, or we are back to traveling by Donkey. Another bunch of “naysaying luddites” are the folks at BMW (Baltimore Motor Works, right?) who are seemingly ready to jump off the E-Hype wagon or at least indicate that a 2030 -2040 end of fossil fuel burning vehicles may be a tiny-itzy-bit utopical. Stay tuned.

    • And that’s why Al Gore, John Kerry and all the other ‘rich’ folks fly their gas guzzling, planet polluting bizjets to the usual tree hugger conferences telling the luddites that THEY must switch to electric cars, et al.

  12. This is capitulation of Tecam on electric aircraft is even more startling when you realize how embedded the Chinese government is with Italian aerospace companies.