Embraer announces Energia sustainable aircraft concepts

With sustainability finally coming around to be the centre stage of aviation discussions, it is no surprise that airlines and aircraft OEM are now taking it upon themselves to own the sustainability agenda. While aircraft have become more ‘sustainable’ over time, with lesser fuel consumption, the next generation of aircraft is expected to work on cleaner fuels altogether (SAF) or alternate sources of power, such as hydrogen or electricity.

In September 2020, Airbus was the first to step up and reveal their bets on the future with the proposed zero-emission commercial aircraft concept called “Zero-E”, exploring hydrogen as a future fuel. They doubled down on it in September 2021, with a full two days of panel discussions to further their vision. Airbus is confident of bringing these concepts to life commercially by 2035. Boeing so far is betting the house on developments in the space of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) to take the mantle of cleaner aviation.

Now, Brazilian aircraft manufacturer, Embraer, has entered the space. In a webcast hosted a few hours ago, Embraer has unveiled four aircraft concepts that intend to use clean energy for its propulsion. These are all concepts at the moment, and again, have to be explored further to make viable aircraft that could enter into service after 2030.

Introducing Embraer’s Energia aircraft

Embraer has named their new aircraft family Energia and focuses on the regional aviation segment with this new family of aircraft. The Energia concept family would feature between 9 and 50 seats. Since these are all concept aircraft, there will be a lot of work before they take to the skies, but we have to be excited for them for now.

The company has partnered with an international consortium of engineering universities, aeronautical research institutes, and small and medium-sized enterprises to understand better energy harvesting, storage, thermal management and their applications for sustainable aircraft propulsion.
Luis Carlos Affonso, Embraer’s Sr. VP of Engineering, Technology and Corporate Strategy, explained the rationale for the Energia family.
We see our role as a developer of novel technologies to help the industry achieve its sustainability targets. There’s no easy or single solution in getting to net zero. New technologies and their supporting infrastructure will come online over time. We’re working right now to refine the first airplane concepts, the ones that can start reducing emissions sooner rather than later. Small aircraft are ideal on which to test and prove new propulsion technologies so that they can be scaled up to larger aircraft. That’s why our Energia family is such an important platform.

The Energia Aircraft Concepts

The Energia Family comprises four concept aircraft of varying sizes that incorporate different propulsion technologies – electric, hydrogen fuel cell, dual fuel gas turbine, and hybrid-electric. Each aircraft is being evaluated for its technical and subsequent commercial viability.

Energia Hybrid (E9-HE)                       

The Energia Hybrid intends to explore hybrid-electric propulsion with rear-mounted engines. The aircraft would be a 9-seater and could offer up to 90% Carbon dioxide emissions reduction. Embraer expects the technology readiness for this aircraft to be in 2030.

Energia Electric (E9-HE)                      

Energia Electric intends to explore full-electric propulsion with aft contra-rotating propellers. The aircraft would be a 9-seater and offer zero Carbon dioxide emissions. Embraer expects the technology readiness for this aircraft to be in 2035.   

Energia H2 Fuel Cell (E19-H2FC)                      

Energia H2 Fuel Cell intends to explore hydrogen-electric propulsion with rear-mounted electric engines on these aircraft. The aircraft would be a 19-seater and offer zero Carbon dioxide emissions. Embraer expects the technology readiness for this aircraft to be in 2035.

Energia H2 Gas Turbine (E50-H2GT)                      

Energia H2 Gas Turbine intends to explore hydrogen or SAF/Jetfuel turbine propulsion with rear-mounted engines on these aircraft. The aircraft would be a 35 to 50 seater and offer up to 100% Carbon dioxide emissions reduction. Embraer expects the technology readiness for this aircraft to be in 2040.

Arjan Meijer, President and CEO of Embraer Commercial Aviation, commented on the company’s strategy regarding sustainability.
We will see a big transformation in our industry towards a more sustainable aviation. With 50 years’ experience in developing, certifying and supporting regional aircraft, Embraer is in a unique position to make viable the introduction of new disruptive green technologies.
Although the Energia aeroplanes are still on the drawing board, Embraer has already made advances in reducing emissions from its aircraft. It has tested drop-in sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), mixes of sugarcane and camelina plant-derived fuel and fossil fuel, on its family of E-Jets. The company is targeting to have all Embraer aircraft SAF-compatible by 2030. Last August, Embraer flew its Electric Demonstrator, a single-engine EMB-203 Ipanema, 100% powered by electricity. A hydrogen fuel cell demonstrator is planned for 2025, and the company’s eVTOL, a fully electric, zero-emissions vertical takeoff and landing vehicle, is being developed to enter service in 2026.

Bottomline

Embraer is the second major OEM to enter sustainable aviation discussion. They have revealed their Energia aircraft concepts, which are focused on exploring electric and hydrogen propulsion. Early days, so we have to see how far Embraer gets with these technologies. For the benefit of the environment, though, I hope they do. We will find out in roughly a decade anyways.

What do you think of Embraer’s new sustainable aircraft concepts?


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About Ajay

Ajay Awtaney is the Founder and Editor of Live From A Lounge (LFAL), a pioneering digital platform renowned for publishing news and views about aviation, hotels, passenger experience, loyalty programs, travel trends and frequent travel tips for the Global Indian. He is considered the Indian authority on business travel, luxury travel, frequent flyer miles, loyalty credit cards and travel for Indians around the globe. Ajay is a frequent contributor and commentator on the media as well, including ET Now, BBC, CNBC TV18, NDTV, Conde Nast Traveller and many other outlets.

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