Piaggio Aerospace is laying plans for a possible hydrogen-electric business aircraft, featuring a completely new airframe. Chief technology officer Antonio Sollo told Climate Transformed’s green aviation webinar on May 10, that the Italian company has evaluated possible battery-electric and hydrogen fuel cell propulsion systems for its existing P180 Avanti Evo twin-turboprop model but has concluded it would not be commercially viable to convert this to a new propulsion system.
In preparing Piaggio’s Technology Development Plan for 2023-27, its engineering team has looked at medium-term options covering hybrid- and full-electric versions of the Avanti. Its conclusion: based on projected improvements in battery technology, for the so-called eP180 model 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 to 16,200 pounds.
Piaggio has also looked at how it might adopt a hydrogen-electric powertrain for the P180 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 of fuel.
Sollo confirmed that, on balance, 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.