From a NLR Press Release:
The Netherlands Aerospace Centre (NLR) has opened research installations and offices covering 18,000 m² in the town of Marknesse as its new research facility for electric flight. Together with PwC, NLR unveiled at the opening ceremony the electric Pipistrel Alpha Electro, which will be deployed as a research aircraft in NLR’s new Living Lab for Electric Flight. NLR is thus ready to embark on the next step towards assuring the sustainability of aviation, namely aircraft powered by electric engines. The new-build facility with its state-of-the-art research facilities was officially opened by Cora van Nieuwenhuizen, Dutch Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management.
Van Nieuwenhuizen said in her speech: “The Netherlands is highly successful in aerospace technology. This is precisely how it should be, because demand for air transport is continuing to grow. But we can’t simply go on building more and more planes. The aircraft also need to be lighter, must be equipped with new technology and have more economical engines. They present new challenges and we must look for the answers. Wherever new ideas must lead to new possibilities, there is a need for incubators. This new NLR complex is such an incubator.”
Living Lab for Electric Flight: a new research facility for electric flight
Auditing and consultancy firm PwC made a donation to NLR to enable the purchase of an electric plane – the Pipistrel Alpha Electro – so as to press ahead with the development of sustainable aviation. The donation fits in with PwC’s ambition to be a circular and CO2-neutral business in 2030. PwC has been monetising its CO2 emissions since 2017 and uses this budget firstly to reduce and then to offset emissions. Among other things PwC is stimulating on-line conferencing, international travel by train and electric driving. The company is additionally investing in sustainable mobility innovations by bringing in knowledge and money. “There’s a lot more to gain in aviation”, said Michael de Ridder, CFO and COO of PwC. “With this donation, PwC wants to make a contribution to accelerating the transition to electric flight. As a user, an international organisation with clients worldwide, we want to take our responsibility by pursuing CO2 reduction, offsetting and innovation.”
The Pipistrel Alpha Electro allows NLR to take a significant step forward in the development of electric flight. In its Living Lab for Electric Flight, NLR will conduct research into such matters as how to increase the range of the Pipistrel Alpha Electro by using new battery technology or a fuel cell and aerodynamic enhancements.
‘Electric flight’ symposium
The event in Marknesse included a mini-symposium called “Electric flight in 2050: dream or opportunities for the Netherlands?” The symposium, attended by a sizeable representation of the Dutch aerospace sector, provided an impression of current technological advances in electric flight and outlined the perspective for opportunities and challenges for the Dutch aerospace sector in this field.
A key attendee was Jeff Engler, CEO of start-up Wright Electric of Los Angeles, who gave a presentation. Wright Electric has entered into cooperation with easyJet and has expressed its ambition to develop a completely electric aircraft capable of operating flights with 150 passengers over distances of around 540 kilometres , such as between Amsterdam and London or Paris, within 10 to 20 years.
The opening and the subject of sustainable aviation also presented an opportunity for partners to display their models, such as the Delft Hyperloop, Solar Car Twente and Ehang of KPN.
Why it’s important: The NLR’s opening of a new research center and incubator represents a large-scale government effort to involve electric aircraft, drones, eVTOLS, and commercial transports into the every-day life of travelers, commuters, and logistics companies. The government backing from the Netherlands combined with support from PwC increases the resource pool available to NLR vastly – expect major updates coming from the center as work spools up.