The Kingdom of Norway is actually one of the best-known places for quick adoption of new electric technology. For example, electric car ownership in Norway is by far and away the strongest in Europe. In 2020 alone, more than 70 percent of all cars sold in Norway were electric, and 83.7 percent in January 2022. What’s more, it’s not just electric cars they’re interested in, but electric planes, as seen by the work of electric seaplane enterprise Elfly.
Enter: the Byfly network
What’s behind Norways’ interest in vehicles like Elfly’s electric seaplane, the Byfly? Most of all, the problem is found in the geography and topography of Norway, where mountains and rocky coastline abound, not to mention the world-famous fjords that attract millions of annual visitors. Stunning as it all is, it’s not exactly conducive to the construction of runways for conventional aircraft.
Elfly, therefore, have worked to connect Norway’s key port cities and coastline settlements with a network of electric seaplane routes that will be championed by the Byfly aircraft. The idea is to offer sustainable, green transportation options to locals and visitors alike, taking them from city to city, and landing in the harbor space.
The advantage of such a proposal is not just found in removing the need to build expensive and distant airports and their connecting highways, but also in the fact that this proposal allows passengers to disembark much closer to the city’s main urban areas than they otherwise would.
The Byfly seaplane
Firstly, you shouldn’t be imagining large passenger jets when you think of Elfly’s Byfly fleet hopping to and fro between Norwegian coastal towns. These are very small craft, each only handling a total of 9 passengers.
You also shouldn’t think of a conventional seaplane design where the craft lands on the water using a set of large pontoons. Instead, the Byfly will land on its hull, which is designed more like that of a boat than an aircraft. It will have pontoons, but they’ll be placed on the wings as stabilizers during take-off and landing maneuvers.
The Byfly is powered by a lithium-ion battery bank that drives two wing-mounted pusher-prop motors at 825-kW each. This powertrain delivers a top speed for the Byfly of around 186-mph (300-km/h), and a single-charge range of 155 miles (250-km). That doesn’t sound a lot right now, but given the short-range nature of the planned flights in Norway, it will more than meet requirements.
The Byfly is still currently in development, with no operational full-scale prototype. The plan is to have a working prototype operational before 2025 using around US$1.65 million in additional funding from the Research Council of Norway.
The future for Byfly
Elfly’s aim in creating the Byfly craft and network is not just to provide a flexible, fast and sustainable mode of transport to help Norwegians and tourists get around, but also to prove that zero-emission transport with greatly reduced noise pollution is part of the future of transit.
It may all be scale models and CGI plans right now, but the recent funding boost helps to show that there is serious backing for this concept, with many countries surely watching to see how it might benefit their own rocky coastal regions, too.