Diamond Signs with Safran for Electric DA40 Propulsion

 - April 27, 2022, 4:23 PM
The electric eDA40 will be able to be recharged in less than 20 minutes. (Photo: Diamond Aircraft Group)

Diamond Aircraft, which announced plans to build an electric-powered DA40 composite airplane last October, has signed an agreement with Safran Electrical & Power to provide the electric motor system for the eDA40.

“We still have to do a lot of evaluation and development,” Diamond CEO Frank Zhang said yesterday at the Aero Friedrichshafen show in Germany. He anticipates first flight by year-end and basic EASA certification in late 2023 or early 2024.

Safran’s EngineUs electric motor will provide the eDA40 with 130 kW of takeoff power. The powerplant is equipped with an integrated motor controller system, while thermal management is via air cooling. Safran anticipates certification of the electric motor, which will be powered by an Electric Power Systems battery on the eDA40, in mid-2023. A DC fast-charging system will replenish the aircraft’s batteries in less than 20 minutes.

Compared to the existing DA40 piston modelk, Zhang said, “We expect operating costs for the eDA40 to be 40 percent lower,” Zhang said. Endurance will be about 90 minutes, and the eDA40 will be marketed as a flight trainer and be equipped with Garmin G1000 NXi avionics.

Meanwhile, Diamond’s current product lineup is growing rapidly. Since China’s Wanfeng acquired Diamond Aircraft Group in 2017, deliveries of all of its aircraft models have soared. The company even resumed production of the two-seat DA20-C1, which is now selling at the rate of 20 per year. In 2017, the company delivered 137 airplanes and that climbed to 240 in 2021. This year, the total should reach 300, according to Zhang, and he forecasts that to rise to 400 in 2023 and 500 in 2024. Sales are already booked for production through 2023, he added. “General aviation, even after Covid, has really recovered.”

In China, Diamond has opened a production facility in Qingdao. With manufacturing capacity maxing out at its Austria and Canada locations, Diamond is building complete DA40 airframes in China and shipping them to Canada for final assembly. In China, the company is building airplanes for local markets, predominately training fleets, under a Chinese production certificate.

Ultimately, Zhang would like to see more globalization of the general aviation industry, with U.S., European, and Chinese aviation authorities all accepting each other’s certification standards. If this were to take place, then Diamond’s China-made airplanes could be exported instead of just serving local markets. “Each plant should be focused on one model,” he explained. The most efficient setup would be for China to make the DA40, Canada the DA50, and Austria the twin-engine models. “We need globalization to achieve this,” he said.