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Nordic electric airliner project claims carrier backing

Scandinavian operators SAS, BRA and Wideroe have expressed tentative interest in an electric regional aircraft project being undertaken by a Swedish start-up company.

Gothenburg-based Heart Aerospace is aiming to produce and certify an initial 19-seat aircraft by 2025. It says the aircraft's range of around 400km means it could be deployed on a third of Swedish domestic routes.

But the company has greater ambitions, with preliminary plans to develop a 48-seat regional aircraft based on the same technology.

"We are currently flying a number of routes that are shorter than 400km and that can potentially be replaced by electric aircraft of the appropriate size," says SAS sustainability manager Lars Andersen Resare.

"Therefore, this is an interesting project that we obviously support."

Heart Aerospace's prospects have been lifted by its acceptance to an accelerator programme, as the company seeks the necessary funding to develop the proposed aircraft.

The California-based innovation funding specialist Y Combinator, which oversees the programme, lists Heart Aerospace among publicly-launched companies with which it is associated.

It claims support and grants from the Swedish government as well as letters of intent from the three Scandinavian carriers covering 86 aircraft.

"Wideroe wants to be an early adopter of the new technology as part of the company's long-term strategy to be emission-free," says the carrier's strategy director Terje Skram.

Heart Aerospace chief Anders Forslund says the collaboration with Y Combinator will enable it to "accelerate the work" of developing electric aircraft in Sweden.

Scandinavian governments, he states, are providing "strong incentives" to electrify air transport.

"By electrifying the aircraft, we can completely remove the emissions, and thereby create a new type of sustainable travel," he adds.

Heart Aerospace's project has emerged from a government programme known as Elise, a collaboration between various academic and industrial partners.

"We have built up a fantastic consortium in the Elise project, where we gathered the best expertise in Sweden around both aerospace technology and battery technology," says Forslund.

"But in order to build an aircraft, we need large private investments, and therefore I applied to Y Combinator."

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