Sounds Air plans to add electric plane to fleet

Flying from Wanaka to Christchurch by electric plane might be possible in 2026.

Sounds Air, which is due to begin the new air service next month, has signed a letter of intent with Swedish aircraft manufacturer Heart Aerospace to buy at least one ES-19 electric aircraft, due to become available in 2026.

Sounds Air chairman Rhyan Wardman said New Zealand was the perfect place for electric aircraft.

"The type of electric aircraft we are looking at are a little larger than the fleet we currently have, and the 400km range is ideal for the routes we fly."

The distance by air from Wanaka to Christchurch is about 300km.

Heart Aerospace’s fully electric, battery-powered 19-seat aircraft was expected to have a top speed of 215knots and a cruise speed of 180knots, and would be able to operate from runways as short as 750m.

The low running costs made the aircraft an economical option as well as an environmentally friendly one, Mr Wardman said.

"There will obviously be some significant initial outlay to purchase the aircraft, but just as with electric cars, the running and maintenance costs are negligible in comparison to jet fuel-powered turboprop engines," he said.

"We believe that the economics stack up but more importantly, we believe that it’s the right thing to do."

Heart Aerospace claims the ES-19 will produce no operational emissions, and that its electric motors will reduce maintenance costs by 90%
compared with turboprop engines.

A Sounds Air spokeswoman said a fast-charging facility would be able to recharge the aircraft’s batteries in about 45 minutes.

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