05 Jul 2023
Dutch start-up Maeve Aerospace has unveiled plans for an all-electric regional airliner that it says will carry as many as 44 passengers on sectors of up to 460 km (250 nm) by 2029. The company claims its design will be readily scalable in size and that, as battery technology advances, could be enlarged to 52 seats in 2032 and have a range of 710 km by 2040.
During an April 13 ceremony in The Hague, co-founder and chief commercial officer Joost Dieben said that four airlines have so far signed letters of support covering provisional orders for 20 of the Maeve 01 aircraft, which will feature eight wing-mounted propellers. The launch customers include European start-up Fly With Lucy and New Zealand’s Air Napier. Fly With Lucy has set a goal of creating a network of 3,000 small airports across Europe, while Air Napier expects to operate the aircraft on city pairs currently only connected by long drives.
According to co-founder and CEO Jan-Willem Heinen, the aircraft will deliver operating costs that are 17 percent lower than those of comparable aircraft today, such as the ATR 42. It says that all-electric propulsion will allow airlines to relaunch abandoned regional routes, such as Bern to Munich, in a way that makes short-haul flying environmentally acceptable, especially in markets such as Europe. The company believes it can serve an initial market for up to 1,200 new aircraft.
Heinen told FutureFlight that his engineering team will be able to deliver the unprecedented combination of payload and range from an all-electric aircraft by starting with a clean sheet design for which key factors such as weight can be optimized. The other key factor will be the ability of Maeve's selected battery supplier Amprius to be able to deliver 500 Wh/kg batteries by the end of this decade.
Maeve has appointed former Airbus and Deutsche Aircraft senior engineer Martin Nüsseler as its chief technology officer. He told the audience for the unveiling presentation that the Maeve 01’s cabin will feature four-abreast seating and have overhead bins on both sides.
From a seed funding round conducted in early 2021 and pre-Series A round in the first quarter of 2022, Maeve raised almost €3.7 million ($4 million). The company says it is now finalizing a €40 million Series A round. This already includes a €17.5 million commitment from the European Investment Council, which it expects to be matched by up to €22.5 million in private investments. In late 2022, the Dutch government provided grants totaling €2.4 million.
Another promised innovation is an electric wheel drive system for the nose landing gear that will allow the aircraft to push back from airport gates without a tow truck. Maeve says the aircraft will be quickly recharged using portable DC-DC charging systems and for all other functions will be compatible with existing airport ground support equipment.
The Delft-based company has not said whether it will develop the electric propulsion system in-house or use a third-party supplier, but Nüsseler claimed that the Maeve 01’s clean-sheet design will allow it to operate with 30 percent lower energy use per passenger than existing aircraft.
Maeve's leadership team says the new company is now moving from the feasibility to conceptual design phases of the project. Nüsseler has been put in overall charge of both research and development work and program management.
The Maeve 01 is vying for a new market alongside rival new regional airline concepts such as Heart Aerospace's hybrid-electric ES-30. Heart abandoned earlier plans for an all-electric 19-seater after concluding that batteries alone would not support the payload and range sought by airlines. Meanwhile, ZeroAvia and Universal Hydrogen are both working to convert existing regional aircraft to hydrogen propulsion.