The two-year project FAIR (Finding Innovations to Accelerate the Implementation of Electric Regional Aviation) was launched about a year ago and can be summarized as a first step in preparing the Kvarken region for an early implementation of electric aviation. At Wasa Future Festival, we learned more about what the project had accomplished during the year. The essence of presentations was clear – the technology already exists, it is undergoing rapid development, and what are now needed are the will and courage to make more joint decisions.
– Many dismissed regional electric aviation as foolishness only a year ago, just like the idea of a new Kvarken ferry was met with skepticism only ten years ago. We’ve shown that anything is possible, and this is not something that we work on for its own sake but to develop the region. We need improved infrastructure at all levels, and electric aviation is the answer to many of our challenges, explains Mr Mathias Lindström, Director of the Kvarken Council.
Mr Andreas Forsgren and Mr Isak Brändström, Project Managers of FAIR, continue:
– The project’s purpose is to increase knowledge about technology, study the region’s opportunities and needs, and discover the necessary investments.
The project is divided into three work packages: the first contains a mapping of electric aviation’s regional effects, the second develops guidelines for its implementation, and the third launches a cross-border innovation process. Pointing out electric aviation’s benefits is easy:
– Electric aviation creates opportunities for new and short routes, it has lower operating costs, it causes less noise and, in addition, it is emission-free – in other words, it is an environmentally friendly solution. Electric aviation also places less requirements on infrastructure compared to traditional aviation, Mr Forsgren continues.
The Kvarken region provides an excellent area for early implementation due to many reasons:
– Our pre-existing relations and long experience in transport-related cooperation forms a solid foundation. That the region is also home to an energy cluster and is seeing the birth of a completely new industry – a battery belt – simultaneously reinforces the need and supports development. The region’s increased cross-border tourism would also greatly benefit from electric aviation, Mr Brändström adds.
Major challenges lie in awareness, acceptance, and the initially high investment costs. In order for the region to spearhead the development of electric aviation, it must be able to handle the investments and the subsequent capital costs.
– But we also need to understand the users’ needs and reasonable price levels. Cost-efficient charging solutions must be developed and airport fees must be reviewed. This requires cooperation both between the state and authorities and between local electricity companies and other actors, Mr Forsgren and Mr Brändström summarize.
Lars Westin from Umeå University and Helka Kalliomöki and Antti Mäenpää from the University of Vaasa have been involved in FAIR’s first work package and were called to outline their conclusions at Wasa Future Festival.
Photo: Anna Sand / bySand
Ms Riitta Björkenheim, Development Director at Vaasa Region Development Company VASEK, strongly believes in the region’s chance of success.
– We have the courage, we have built a culture of success, and consistent cooperation is key to this. The need for a new, single labour market is also growing.
Mr Lars Westin, Professor in Regional Economics at Umeå University, together with researcher Mr Antti Mäenpää from the University of Vaasa, outlined how the region can benefit from electric aviation and when the first regional electric aviation routes could become a reality.
– There’s a lot going on in the region and we see an increased need for expertise – both a shared need and one surpassing country and company borders. The industries that are now emerging in all three countries will create an increased need for travelling – naturally in a quick and environmentally friendly manner. In addition, there’s great potential regarding tourism, and the region would provide an excellent basis for the electric aviation industry itself, Mr Mäenpää states.
Mr Westin explains that the construction of a network for both domestic and international routes requires an organization that works across borders with such issues – which we already possess – and that it also craves more business-oriented actors.
– With strong actors in the background, it’s possible to launch electric aviation in the Kvarken region within five years, Mr Westin predicts.
Mr Arne Smedberg, CEO of BioFuel Region, agrees.
– There are currently around ten different manufacturers carrying out test flights, and the first electric flight is coming out on the market in August. The first actual passenger flight is estimated to take place in 2026, and there will be several models in use with different battery technologies before 2030.
– We find ourselves in a strong development phase, and it isn’t the technology that forms a bottleneck instead of its actual implementation in the aviation market. The certification process is complicated and time-consuming, and we’re still missing a standard for the charging infrastructure. Nonetheless, all of these problems could be solved in the next 5–10 years, he concludes.
Text and photos: Anna Sand
Project Managers Andreas Forsgren and Isak Brändström talking to Riitta Björkenheim from VASEK.
Photo: Anna Sand / bySand