EBACE Convention News

Piaggio Ponders Electric and Hydrogen-electric Aircraft

 - May 22, 2022, 2:00 AM

Piaggio Aerospace is laying plans for a possible hydrogen-electric business aircraft featuring a completely new airframe. Chief technology officer Antonio Sollo told attendees at Climate Transformed’s green aviation webinar shortly before EBACE 2022 that the company has evaluated possible battery-electric and hydrogen fuel cell propulsion systems for its existing P.180 Avanti Evo turboprop twin. However, the company has concluded it would not be commercially viable to convert this airplane to such propulsion systems—at least in the near-term.

In preparing a technology development plan from 2023 to 2027,  Piaggio’s engineering team looked at various medium-term options covering hybrid- and full-electric versions of the Avanti. It concluded that, based on projected improvements in battery technology, for the so-called eP.180 to be able to carry four passengers and two pilots on missions of around 300 nm, the aircraft’s maximum takeoff weight would have to increase significantly—from 12,100 pounds to 16,200 pounds.

Piaggio (Static AD_8) also looked at how it might adopt a hydrogen-electric powertrain for the P.180 by adding liquid hydrogen fuel tanks on the front side of the wing in place of standard engine nacelles. This fuel would run air-cooled fuel cells that would power a pair of electric motors configured in the model’s standard pusher configuration. For the same 300-nm range, the tanks would need to carry around 56 kg (123 pounds) of fuel.

Sollo confirmed that, all things considered, Piaggio has determined it would be more productive to develop a completely new airframe to achieve the most potential from any new propulsion system. Any decision on proceeding with such a program would be contingent on support from the anticipated new owner of the company, which is currently in administration and up for sale under that process.