Electric planes could 'revolutionise' Australian travel
An Australian start-up trying to take the fuel out of flying will show off its latest electric innovations at the Avalon Airshow.
And one of the executives behind the venture said battery-powered planes had potential to "revolutionise" regional flights and disrupt the way all Australians travel.
Dovetail Electric Aviation will show off a Cessna Caravan small plane fitted with battery pods at the Victorian event next week, in addition to a working electric plane motor.
The company's business operations manager Rachael Barritt said the demonstration was designed excite the industry about electric planes and the changes they could make to flights around the world.
"Aviation is ripe for disruption," she said.
"When was the last time we had a massive innovation in aviation?"
Ms Barritt said the company, which received a $3 million Co-operative Research Centres Projects grant this month, was working to convert small petrol-powered planes using electric motors and lithium-ion batteries.
Dovetail planned to launch its first "experimental" electric plane flight in 2024, she said, in a move that could significantly cut fuel and maintenance costs for providers.
"When you convert an aircraft to an electric motor you have a 40 per cent reduction in operating costs," Ms Barritt said.
"We'll see current regional aviation transform. You'll see more smaller flights emerge that we don't have right now."
Small electric planes could conduct hour-long flights once approved by the Civil Aviation and Safety Authority, Ms Barritt said, proving useful for tourism and skydiving operators as well as airlines servicing regional routes.
Regional Express has partnered with the company to convert some of its 61 Saab 340 aircraft fleet into electric planes.
Swinburne University AIR Hub director Adriano Di Pietro said Rex and other Australian providers could pioneer the technology before launching it in other parts of the world.
"We have a strong regional airline use case in Australia which clean and electric aviation would play a key role in," he said.
"Connecting the regions is going to be a big opportunity so there's potentially a unique market in Australia to start electric aviation and then go global."
Dr Di Pietro said said the university's AIR Hub staff would work with Dovetail and Ms Barritt, as its 2023 "founder in residence," to accelerate the development of the technology and help the Australian firm stay ahead of innovation overseas.
"A big part of the challenge is how start-ups connect with experts, facilities and core tech they might need to deliver their business," he said.
"The idea was to come in and work with them early rather than wait for grants."
The Avalon Airshow will be held in Geelong from February 28.