Creating a paradigm change in light aviation, by developing a usable amphibious hybrid electric aircraft.
- Tranby, Norway
Categories: Automotive & Transport Mixed Digital/Non-Digital B2C
Equator is a Norwegian start-up company run by a small, agile team and consultants with eight years of experience designing and developing the P2 Xcursion prototype and the hybrid propulsion system used in the prototype.
The design process started as a diploma degree, and gradually grew into the novel prototype and propulsion system being tested by the company today. The process started in 2009, and construction commenced in 2011. The team completed the “proof of concept” prototype aircraft in 2017.
The company is specifically focused on prototyping unique aircraft, propulsion and mobility solutions that fit specific market niches identified by the company’s specialists. The products and services created by Equator are made available to stakeholders for production based on a regional license production program. This is in the process of being developed by the team, with the aim of producing > 150 planes per year in 2025.
The Equator team has closely monitored the market and its regulatory developments over the past ten years. In our opinion, the light aircraft market is ready for new innovation. This is because we believe that a significant part of the technical and ergonomic solutions currently available is based on outdated technology. This situation creates a ripe opportunity to take large market shares with modern aircraft and propulsion systems with a focus on improved user experiences. We believe the P2 aircraft could provide a paradigm change in the market as the utilitarian aspects of the product make it an enticing prospect for more people to become pilots.
To our knowledge, the P2 aircraft is the first amphibious aircraft to take advantage of the novel electric propulsion possibilities. We have created a "no-nonsense" aircraft that combines utility and performance in an innovative way. And coupled these properties with a simplified cockpit interface and a SUV cabin which makes the aircraft more flexible and usable than many other aircrafts.
Substantial accomplishments to date
The project was initiated as a diploma project at the Oslo School of architecture and design in 2010.
2011 - Start of physical construction.
2012 - Awarded state grant to develop hybrid propulsion system.
2012 - Engiro GmbH development of the EHPS (Hybrid System).
2013 - Attended the Oshkosh innovations pavilion as a team.
2015 - First bench runs of the hybrid system.
2016 - First Hybrid runs on the aircraft prototype.
2016 - Presented at the Sustainable Aircraft Symposium.
2017 - Prototype completed with exhibition at Aero Friedrichshafen.
2018 - High-speed taxi tests with jumps
2018 - received 4 letter of intent to order prototype kits, by clients on 3 continents.
2018 - Awarded Research Grant from the Norwegian Research Council.
Equator plans to firstly produce the P2 Xcursion aircraft as a KIT version and license the aircraft to Hubs around the world for assembly. The idea entails creating a digital logistics and purchasing online warehouse.
Furthermore, we plan for the P2 platform to be widened to include UAV / UAS (drone) versions of the aircraft, that can carry up to 230kgs of payload.
We are also working on the development of electric and hybrid propulsion together with our partner Engiro GmbH. The sale and distribution of electric and hybrid drives for aircraft is also one route Equator aims to follow.
As the P2 settles in as both a manned and unmanned successful product, the concept can be highly scaleable, and Equator aims to produce larger electric aircraft on the same base idea. the P4, P6 and P8 are already on the drawing table.
Use of proceeds
We've built the proof of concept based on private (the founders) and state funding. We will solely use the raised capital to invest in the production model, the team and set up of tools for production. A production aircraft like the P2 Xcursion requires significant investment until a positive cash flow is reached. The detailed cost assessment for the production prototype and Equator HQ is detailed in the cost assessment budget for the next 3 years. But the main areas are outlined as such:
Production Parts and Tooling: 40%
Human Resources: 50%
HQ and workshop: 10%
Over 3,000 aircrafts are sold annually, and commonly aircraft in this price range (200-260K USD) are co-owned by a group of people.
Equator believes in a long term shift in demand, moving from “hobby” to “mobility” and improving overall user experiences will without doubt create new market opportunities, where other individuals will see the need for such transportation systems. However it is a common belief that any new aerospace company must succeed in existing markets initially to be profitable. The new European microlight rules that may come to fruition pushes the weight up to 650 kg, making it easier for Equator to reach certification, and the LSA rules in the US are already appropriate for us.
Characteristics of target market
We believe that the entire light aircraft market can be reached with the Xcursion aircraft. In the latest available report from 2016, a total of 3000 LSA (690 kg class) aircraft were registered in USA alone. The American company Icon Aircraft have pre sold 1500 amphibious aircraft from 2015, but are still unable to serve the clients with first delivery late 2017. It shows the market potential in the USA alone is high for amphibious solutions in particular.
We intend for The Xcursion to also fit into the European ELA1 class or the updated UL category being worked on by EASA now, where a similar number of aircraft are sold. The light aircraft market of the USA and Europe alone is therefore around 5000 aircraft sold annually. However, we believe the highest 'potential' markets lie in the Chinese market in particular, and Asian markets in general. And one can assume that with lack of airport infrastructure, the amphibious solutions are attractive propositions for people in these regions.
The only real marketing tool in the aircraft market are gained flight hours and happy pilots, therefore it usually takes new players more time to break into the aviation scene than in other consumer goods arenas.
With all the risks associated with aircraft development we aim to enter the market cautiously, with patience and with the mantra to make each client happy! Equator believes that with a limited (DIY) market it makes perfect sense to create a regional production licence based on parts sales as a means for income, and build the aircraft locally to reach more people. The scenario entails as an example: “The Brazilian buys the Xcursion on a Brazilian web page and Brazilian vendor, built by Brazilians, in Brazil”. Equator strongly believes this is an excellent market and marketing approach to reach more people quicker, and produce more aircraft in a shorter time span.
It is often common to compare amphibious solutions to other aircraft in the same category, but one of the main traits of the Xcursion aircraft is that we believe it will perform more like a land plane, with higher efficiency. Thus the competition strategy is to market the aircraft as a good aircraft, not a seaplane. The idea being if you can go in the water without compromising on performance, a lot of people will choose a seaplane. In our experience, seaplanes in general perform badly due to sea characteristics. As far as we know, people have always tried without success to create aircraft with similar performance to land planes. This is only achievable by utilising electric motors, and to our knowledge, Equator is the first company to attempt this. The Utopian spots in the market are where the first utilitarian SUV type aircraft meets high performance. The main strategy is getting as many aircraft flying around the world as possible, to show people how good the concept is.