US regional aviation start-up Surf Air Mobility has pushed back its target date for certification of its in-development electric powertrain to 2027. 

Surf Air’s previously stated intention was to gain approval for the electric powertrain by 2026. 

Chief Executive Stan Little said during the company’s 28 March earnings call that development of advanced propulsion technology is a critical component of Surf Air’s business strategy, which calls for electrification of the company’s existing and future fleets of Cessna Grand Caravans. 

“We intend to electrify our existing fleet using fully electric and hybrid-electric powertrain technology once it’s fully designed, developed and certified,” Little says.

“Due to the timing of availability for the components for our powertrain, we believe we will obtain [supplemental type] certification of the fully electric powertrain by early 2027, and the hybrid powertrain sometime thereafter.” 

“Given this timeline, we remain confident that we can still be the first to market with an electric commercial regional passenger aircraft,” he adds.

Surf Air Electrified Cessna Grand Caravan

Source: Surf Air Mobility

Surf Air is making “steady progress” toward developing hybrid- and fully electric propulsion systems for Grand Caravans

Surf Air’s target date for certification is now more distant due to limitations in current technology, as ”many of the best of these components are not yet certified”, Little says. ”What this is going to mean is that it’s going to be a better product in 2027 because we’ll be able to use the exact motor that we want and the exact battery that we want.” 

Meanwhile, the start-up lost $251 million for full-year 2023, compared with a $74.4 million loss the prior year. The company generated $60.5 million of revenue in 2023 compared with $20.3 million in 2022. 

Surf Air, which owns Florida-based regional carrier Southern Airways Express, reported holding total assets of $111 million as of 31 December. 

The company attributes its larger loss partially to the up-front cost of developing the means of electrifying its fleet. Little says Surf Air is making steady progress on “developing proprietary powertrain technology to electrify the Cessna Grand Caravan”. 

Surf Air is partnering with AeroTec, Magnix and Textron Aviation to develop its “EP1” powertrain. LIttle says development has entered the “latter half of the conceptual design phase”.

“That means we’re in the final stages of vendor selection for key components, including batteries and electric motor suppliers,” he says. “Additionally, we’re working with the Caravan’s avionics manufacturer, Garmin, to integrate the powertrain with the aircraft displays.”

Los Angeles-based Surf Air is competing with advanced propulsion developer and former merger target Ampaire, which is also based in Southern California and has a similar plan to electrify existing turboprops.