Pratt & Whitney Canada (P&WC) has selected H55 S.A. the Swiss based company developing electric propulsion and battery systems, to provide the battery pack for the company’s regional hybrid-electric flight demonstrator program.
As the technological spin-off of Solar Impulse, the first electric airplane to fly around the world, the mission of H55, is to make aviation clean, safe, and affordable. The company’s strengths and competencies lie in developing propulsion and energy storage solutions which are modular, lightweight, and certifiable. Having integrated and flown 4 electric airplanes, this announcement is a further illustration of H55’s position as a major enabler in the electric commuter market.
The participation of H55 in the hybrid-electric demonstrator program follows P&WC’s July 2021 announced plans of investing $163 CAD million, with the support of the governments of Quebec and Canada, towards developing this sustainable propulsion technology. Collins Aerospace and De Havilland Aircraft of Canada are key technology collaborators in the demonstrator project. The National Research Council Canada (NRC) and the Innovative Vehicle Institute (IVI) are also supporting the development of some of the component designs and electrical control systems for the project.
“Our goal has always been to target regional commuter transportation and with P&WC, there is a perfect fit whereby our core technologies complement each other,” said André Borschberg, H55’s Co-founder and Executive Chairman. “Both companies share the same vision as to how hybrid-electric propulsion can offer a range of environmental and economic benefits. Having been selected by P&WC is an important validation that our experience is valued by a reputable industry player. We are excited to be working in Quebec with P&WC and several other industry and research collaborators in bringing our battery pack to the hybrid-electric demonstrator program”.
Hybrid-electric propulsion technology is a core element of Pratt & Whitney’s strategy for continually advancing the efficiency of aircraft propulsion systems, in support of the industry-wide goal of achieving net zero CO2 emissions for aviation by 2050. The company is also developing technologies to support greater use of cleaner, alternative fuels, including Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAFs) and hydrogen, each of which will benefit from the increased efficiencies enabled by hybrid-electric propulsion systems.
“We’re delighted to draw from H55’s proven technology in the field of aircraft battery systems and collaborate with NRC and IVI on optimizing the design for our flight demonstrator program,” said Jean Thomassin, executive director new products and services, Pratt & Whitney Canada. “Hybrid-electric technology holds significant potential to boost the efficiency of next generation aircraft propulsion systems, allowing us to set new standards for sustainability for regional and commuter aircraft.”
H55 looks forward to collaborating alongside Canada’s largest federal research and development organization, the NRC, an organization which has a track record of contributing to the development of science and innovation in Canada. The NRC’s role will include supporting the development of the high voltage battery sub-systems and their related elements. H55 also welcomes the participation of the IVI, who will work on the integration of the battery and control systems on the De Havilland Canada Dash 8 experimental aircraft.
Ground testing of the propulsion technology will already start this year, with a planned flight demonstration in 2024. A 30% improvement in fuel efficiency and commensurate reduction in CO2 emissions is targeted, compared to today’s most advanced turboprop engines for regional aircraft.