US start-up Wright Electric has announced plans for a 100-seat fully-electric regional jet that could take off from 2026. The electric aeroplane, named Wright Spirit, is an electric-powered version of the BAe 146 regional jet originally manufactured by BAE Systems.
The Wright Spirit is based on a conversion of the four-engine aircraft, creating a retrofit regional aircraft that is expected to have a flight time of one hour and a range of 460 miles (about 740 kilometres). The stage was set for the Spirit in early 2020 with the announcement and development of a megawatt propulsion system for all-electric commercial aircraft, according to Wright Electric. At the time, the Los Angeles-based electric aircraft startup, founded in 2016, had publicised that it had begun developing the electric propulsion system for a 186-seat aircraft called the Wright 1.
Over the past two years, the company says it has now tested key components of the system, including a high-power density inverter and a 2 MW motor. Commenting on the current plans for the 100-seat regional electric aircraft, Wright CEO Jeff Engler said: “Because we built the world’s largest aerospace propulsive powertrain, we can build the world’s largest zero-emissions retrofit directly serving the world’s busiest routes.” The eventual production system, however, is expected to be even more powerful; instead of 2 MW, there is talk of a targeted 2.5 to 3 MW.
By concentrating on one-hour flights, the Wright Spirit should be suitable for the busiest city connections such as Seoul – Jeju, London – Paris, Rio de Janeiro – São Paulo or San Francisco – Los Angeles. “We can make a significant impact on global emissions by targeting this high-demand segment of the market,” says Engler.
However, there are still several intermediate stages before commercialisation. First, the propulsion development programme will now continue with ongoing ground tests and the final selection of the propulsion system. In 2023, the aircraft is to begin flight testing with a fully electric propulsion system. The programme will then aim for flight testing with two all-electric propulsion systems by 2024 and all-electric flight by 2026, it says. Wright Electric’s aviation industry partners are EasyJet and VivaAerobus.
The company’s flagship 186-seat commercial aircraft named Wright 1 is due to enter service in 2030 and will then be able to travel 800 miles (just under 1,300 kilometres). In contrast to the Wright Spirit, it will be a completely newly designed aircraft.
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