Textron Aviation is to electrify its Cessna Grand Caravan utility aircraft using ZeroAvia’s 600-kW hydrogen-electric propulsion system. Under a development agreement announced on September 29, the companies will work together to obtain an FAA supplemental type certificate to retrofit the turboprop aircraft using the ZA600 powertrain.
California-based ZeroAvia aims to complete certification of the ZA600 system by 2025. Its work will now be supported by Textron’s engineers, who will provide data and certification support.
The U.S. manufacturer has already delivered more than 2,400 Grand Caravans worldwide, giving the partners a large potential retrofit market. According to ZeroAvia, the aircraft’s high-wing design makes it suitable for mounting hydrogen fuel tanks under the wings, without limiting space for passengers or freight.
Textron has created an eAviation division to advance plans for electric-powered aircraft. This year it acquired electric aviation pioneer Pipistrel.
Meanwhile, ZeroAvia is continuing ground testing of a converted Dornier 228 aircraft and says that within the next few weeks it will be ready to start test flights from its facility at Cotswold Airport in the UK. The company, which earlier this year raised an additional $30 million, wants to convert nine- to 19-seat regional airliners to hydrogen power using the same ZA600 system. It is also working on a more powerful 2.5-MW ZA2000 system for 40- to 80-seat aircraft that it says could be ready to enter commercial service in 2027.
Other companies, such as Ampaire, are working on plans to convert the Grand Caravan to electric propulsion. It is developing a conversion program for what it calls the EcoCaravan.