Norway’s ambitious desire for all-electric aviation by 2040 took a giant step forward today with plans announced to put the world’s first all-electric commuter plane in the air by 2026.
Powered by Rolls-Royce technology and designed by Italian firm Tecnam, the 9-seat aircraft is perfectly suited to the unique requirements of aviation in Norway.
The proposed 9-seater Widerøe electric airplane is designed by Tecnam using Rolls-Royce propulsion.
Very short flights of 15-30 minutes are commonplace in the Scandinavian country due to the mountains and fjords that dominate the landscape and make ground transport slow.
Regional airline Widerøe currently relies on a fleet of Dash-8 propellor planes for these ultra short flights, but has made no secret of its wish to shift to battery power.
“A 9-seater aircraft is an important milestone on the road to emission-free short-haul flights, because for the first time it provides the opportunity to test commercial operation of zero-emission aircraft,” said Widerøe CEO Stein Nilsen in a press release.
Norwegian domestic airline Widerøe are keen to use the planned Rolls-Royce electric airplane for … [+]
Rolls-Royce and Widerøe have collaborated on a zero-emissions aviation research program since 2019.
While a commercial deal to purchase the electric planes is yet to be signed, Sigurd Øvrebø from Rolls-Royce Norway explained that the collaboration with Widerøe is an important catalyst for the technology: “With this development, we position Norway and Widerøe first in the queue for zero-emission aircraft.”
Aviation analyst Frode Steen told state broadcaster NRK that while he was surprised at the planned launch date of 2026, the rapid development of the electric car market in Norway over the last decade shows what is possible.
In 2020, Norway became the first country in the world where the annual sales of electric cars were higher than cars powered by petrol, diesel and hybrid engines.
The proposed design from Italian company Tecnam in Widerøe livery.
Of course, Norway’s electric car success was achieved in large part by substantial state subsidies and incentives. Whether such incentives would be available in aviation remains to be seen, as many of Widerøe’s shortest flights are already subsidised by the government.
However, the Widerøe boss believes all-electric technology will result in cheaper fares. “Just dropping all the environmental taxes we have today will affect ticket prices,” said Nilsen.
The Widerøe announcement is the latest in a long line of news pointing towards a greener future for aviation.
Last year, Airbus presented three concept designs for a hydrogen-powered commercial jet aircraft, which it claimed could be realized by 2035. Airbus and others are also looking at possibilities for hybrid propulsion.
I was born in the U.K. but moved to Norway in 2011 and haven’t looked back. I run a website and podcast about Norway, authored the Moon Norway travel guidebook, and spend