The first hybrid propulsion system for light aircraft has been created in Spain. The company Axter Aerospace, spin-off from the Carlos III University of Madrid, has developed an engine that combines the electric impulse with the combustion one. This company was founded in 2011 by specialist propulsion engineers Miguel Suárez, who is also a pilot, and Daniel Cristóbal. The idea arose from a conversation between the two about the safety of small plane flights. "If you incorporate two engines, one electric and one gasoline, if the gasoline fails you can fly in electric," explains Suarez. They started up the company thanks to an initial investment of 500,000 euros that they obtained from a strategic partner and from grants from the Center of Industrial Technological Development (CDTI).
The solution devised by these entrepreneurs is a hybrid kit, which works with electricity or gasoline. It is possible to incorporate it into any small plane and allows adding 40 more horsepower to the combustion engine. In addition, in case of any failure in the conventional system, has autonomy to operate up to 20 minutes and ensure a safe landing. During the flight time in which the kit is not in operation, regenerate the batteries so that they are always 100% charged.
"Although the kit costs about 23,000 euros, it is an investment that is quickly amortized, since the flight costs are reduced from 150 euros per hour to 100 euros, and it is less polluting," Suárez says. The product already has certification for Spain and is in process to obtain the European one.
Suarez explains that launching the project was a complicated process. "Obtaining certification is a very expensive process." The first flight with a hybrid plane arrived in 2013. In 2017 they exceeded a turnover of 200,000 euros and since then they are already generating profits.
The next goal of these entrepreneurs is to move from having a service company to producing the engines themselves. "There is a market for this system; companies like Siemens, for example, is interested in the development of this type of technology, "says Suárez, but the main consumers of this product are not in Spain, Suárez says that the most important market is the United States and that in Brazil and Germany too there is a lot of interest. "In the United States there is another culture of aviation and a much larger fleet than in the Spanish market."