Wideroe Goes Electric with Tecnam's P-Volt

 - March 11, 2021, 7:57 AM
Wideroe will use Tecnam's all-electric P-Volt aircraft to serve smaller regional airports in Norway starting in 2026. (Image: Rolls-Royce)

Scandinavian regional airline Wideroe on Thursday committed to introducing Tecnam’s new all-electric P-Volt aircraft into commercial service on scheduled routes starting in 2026. Rolls-Royce Electrical is developing a propulsion system for the nine-passenger aircraft, which is based on Tecnam’s existing P2012 Traveller twin-piston model.

Italy-based Tecnam and Rolls-Royce’s new electric propulsion division announced plans to develop the P-Volt in October 2020. Since 2018, the companies have worked on a program to convert the four-seat P2010 aircraft to hybrid-electric propulsion using the H3PS1 propulsion system developed jointly by Rolls-Royce and Rotax.

Rolls-Royce established its Electrical division in 2019, following the aero engines group’s acquisition of the Siemens eAircraft business. In the same year, Rolls-Royce and Wideroe started a joint research project to evaluate options for introducing electric aircraft.

The P-Volt’s short takeoff and landing capability make it suitable for services to the many small airports that Wideroe serves across Norway. Prior to the Covid pandemic, the airline operated 400 daily flights in 44 airports, with around three-quarters of the routes stretching less than 275 km (172 miles). The Norwegian government is pressing for the introduction of electrified aircraft on domestic flights from 2030 to meet its objective of an 80 percent reduction in emissions by 2040.

Wideroe has not specified exactly how many of the P-Volt aircraft it will buy as the program’s launch operator, but chief executive Stein Nilsen indicated that it might start taking deliveries in 2025. Its fleet currently consists of a mix of larger 40 Bombardier Dash 8 twin turboprops and three Embraer E190-E2 twinjets. The company has not said how many of those aircraft it will retain for longer routes and services into larger airports but it plans to deploy the P-Volt mainly for flights in the north of Norway and along the country’s long west coast.

A pair of 375-hp Lycoming TWO540C1A engines power the existing P2012, whose range just exceeds 1,000 miles. The P-Volt’s range will likely be significantly shorter, but Tecnam hasn't yet confirmed that aspect of its performance. 

The announcement came just hours after Rolls-Royce reported a 2020 loss of £3.2 billion ($4.5 billion), almost entirely due to the effect of the Covid pandemic on its commercial aircraft engines business. In 2019, it achieved a profit of £583 million.

In response to the crisis, Rolls-Royce cut around 7,000 jobs, saving more than £1 billion for the financial year. It also has raised further capital from investors through new debt and equity issues.

The group said that in 2021 it expects flight hours for its large turbofans to recover to around 55 percent of levels seen in 2019. However, it expects deliveries of new engines to remain suppressed for several years.