The company plans to start in niches — like jumping across the fjords of Scandinavia. These routes are difficult to replace by ground transport and in some countries, like Norway, they can be subsidized by the government.
Forslund says these trips are just the beginning and the goal is to expand the route in the region globally. Even with current battery technology, the company claims, its planes can fly about 400 kilometers or 250 miles. It’s the distance between New York City and Boston or Paris and London.
The battery requirement to fly even these short trips is quite large. Heart’s 19-seat aircraft will carry about 3.5 tons of batteries on board, for a total capacity equivalent to eight to 10 electric vehicles.
Wright Electric, a US-based startup, is aiming for even larger planes. The company plans to retrofit batteries into the 100-seat aircraft for short-haul routes, which is also expected to fly in 2026.
Some in the industry are skeptical that such planes could be successful without major battery improvements. “Battery technology is not there yet,” says Mukhopadhaya.
In one recent report of the ICCT, Mukhopadhaya and his colleagues found that the range of electric aircraft would be severely limited with existing energy storage technology. “Honestly, “We were surprised by how terrible the scope was,” he said.
Using estimates of current battery density and aircraft weight limits, analysts estimate that the battery-powered 19-seater will have a maximum cruising range of about 260 kilometers (160 miles), at least. significantly more than the company claims of 250 miles.
Forslund argues that estimates by outside observers don’t give a true picture of the company’s technology, as they don’t know the details of the battery pack and its aircraft design. (The company plans to design its own aircraft rather than retrofit an existing model to run on batteries.)