February 10, 2017

MassCEC Helps Electric Airplane Company Take Flight

Ryan Cromarty, Investment Fellow

From golf-carts to cars, electric drivetrain technology has steadily climbed the ranks of the transportation market. Now, it is set to reach new heights above the clouds.

On August 2, MassCEC and the Massachusetts Technology Transfer Center (MTTC) awarded $40,000 to seven researchers and early-stage companies as part of the Catalyst Program. Cambridge-based startup Wright Electric Airplanes, one of the program’s awardees, hopes to use grant money to become the “Tesla for airplanes” with a new electric-powered passenger aircraft. This 9-seat aircraft, able to travel over 400 miles, would be perfect for island hopping and sight-seeing!

And with air travel typically making up the majority of an individual’s carbon footprint, such technology could not come sooner.

“If you take five long flights a year, they may well account for three-quarters of the emissions you create,” wrote New York Times correspondent Elisabeth Rosenthal in 2013.

However, there may be a solution! Clean-energy electric turboprops have the potential to mitigate six million metric tons of CO2 emissions a year, and Wright Electric Airplanes is here to help the process along.

The planes Wright Electric are designing will boast 80% reduced emissions, 20% lower direct operating costs as well as higher stability. Equipped with multiple redundant electric motors that shrink sing-point-failure risk in single engine turboprops, the planes will also be considerably safer.

Though Chinese manufacturer Rui-Xiang has already had commercial success with two-seater electric airplanes, the development of a 9-seat electric airplane is the next step toward commercial business viability. Wright Electric Airplanes looks to create thousands of skilled clean-energy and aerospace engineering jobs across the Commonwealth, while bringing in considerable revenue.

Wright Electric Airplanes is headed by Harvard Business School graduate and repeat CEO, Jeff Engler, who hopes to take the company up, up, and away…