The Australian government plans to electrify regional airliners

The Australian government plans to electrify regional airliners
Courtesy of Textron Aviation

To advance its electric propulsion conversion plans, the Australian government has awarded Dovetail Electric Aviation a grant for A$3 million ($2.1 million). In announcing its Cooperative Research Centres Projects (CRC-P) program, the Australian Industry and Science Department announced funding for 19 projects totaling A$44 million.

A minority stake in Dovetail's European sister company, Dante Aeronautical, was acquired in December 2022 by Spanish airlines Air Nostrum and Volotea, further boosting Dovetail's plans to market electric regional airlines. Recently, the two ventures announced that they would start delivering converted aircraft by 2025 through a joint Series A funding round.  Also, Dovetail has received an investment from Rex, an Australian regional airline that wants to reduce its operating costs by 40 percent by converting to electric power. 

In light of Australia's efforts to meet its emissions targets, Ed Husic said electric aviation could be a game-changer for regional transport. Additionally, he announced that CRP-C funding will open on March 2, 2023, as part of his announcement.

There will also be involvement from the University of New South Wales and the Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organization. In addition to developing, testing, and certifying the propulsion technology and its integration with the aircraft, Sydney Seaplanes will also play a role as part of the parent company of Dovetail and Dante.

A type of certificate supplemental to the Caravan is being sought initially by the partners. A hydrogen fuel cell-powered version of the aircraft is then expected to be approved by 2027 and 2028, and retrofits will be added to the King Air, Twin Otter, and C212 in the following year.

As of 2029, Dante's goal is to achieve type certification by the end of 2033, with the start of its development of the DAX-19 hybrid-electric regional airliner having been pushed back.

A mix of battery-powered Caravans and hydrogen-powered King Airs would be purchased by Monte, a UK-based aircraft leasing company, on undisclosed terms.

As a first step, MagniX's motors and batteries will be used by Mobius Energy in the battery electric conversions. MagniX, based in the United States, will be sold exclusively to Dovetail and Dante in Australia, New Zealand, and Europe as part of a contract signed in late 2021. As part of the planned propulsion conversion projects, the companies will primarily serve as system integrators.

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