The 3rd largest budget airline in Europe by passenger volume, Volotea Airlines, along with Dante, an aeronautical start-up with bases both in Spain and Australia, have just partnered in a collaboration that aims to create a hybrid-electric aircraft.
This revolutionary move, triggered by the global proactive trend towards a more sustainable means of transportation and the goal to reduce the CO2 emissions in the sector by a half compared to the net levels in 2005, the association intends to lead the feasibility of aviation in the medium- and long-term.
Volotea’s key role in this project consists in assisting the pro environmentally-friendly start-up with market analysis, as well as technical data that, along with the group of engineers that have also been put at their disposal, will serve to create a more optimal market opportunity. At the same time, other engineering organizations like Altran and the University of Sydney and Adelaide will actively support the project in order to ensure its feasibility.
The 19 to 35 seat prototype, which aims to take the skies in around 15 years, will allow smaller destinations to be launched or re-launched (out of the 90 routes that Volotea opened in its first years, 40 were closed) as operational costs would significantly drop.
The plane would run on multiple electrical engines, which are powered by a hybrid system of batteries and generators. This could ultimately enhance the range up until a sum of 400nm (741km).
It is undoubtedly a perfect match for both companies, and specially for Volotea whose niche market strategy could well be supplied with this smaller-sized aircraft.
Volotea’s current fleet is comprised of 36 A319’s and B717 – the latter to be gradually retired before 2022 in favor of a more modern Airbus fleet.
However, this fleet is still far from optimal due to the high seasonality to which the airline is subjected to – cost base in maintenance, leasing, etc. is hard to adapt in winter periods.
Currently, the company is present in 83 different destinations in Europe, primarily in regional medium-sized cities in France, Italy and Spain. Nonetheless, according to the airline’s co-founder and CEO Carlos Muñoz, “there is an estimation of at least 500-600 route pairs Volotea could operate in Europe”, and along with the sense of “constant learning, adaptability and commitment to innovation” the company pursues, it is evident that this represents an unparalleled opportunity to keep up with their rapid grow path since they started operations in 2011.