After building the 2 Solar Impulse electric airplanes and flying around the world, covering 42’000 km, Solar Impulse’s Co-Founder André Borschberg together with several former colleagues, is now bringing electric propulsion to the world of aviation to make air transport cleaner, quieter, safer and more affordable. H55 has just completed its first VC financing round with NanoDimension, a Silicon Valley and Swiss based Venture Capital firm, to further develop the potential of electric propulsion for existing airplane designs and new aviation solutions such as flying cars, drones and VTOLs.
H55, a technological legacy from Solar Impulse has been founded by André Borschberg, Executive Chairman, Sébastien Demont, CTO and Gregory Blatt, Head of Business Development.
Electric propulsion will revolutionize aviation as it addresses all the challenges and criticisms of traditional combustion aircrafts: noise, pollution, high operating and maintenance costs, risks and safety. It will also allow the development of completely new aircraft designs. Electric motors react immediately when provided with electric current. They can be used to control the stability of the airplane as well as for its propulsion.
Commenting on the NanoDimension investment and the prospects of electric propulsion, André Borschberg believes “electric air transport will drastically improve the way we live and move. New concepts which are only possible with electric propulsion, will soon allow for aircraft to take-off and land vertically and quietly. Imagine boarding an electric airplane on top of a building which can bring you to the other side of the city in less than 10 minutes, with no impact on the environment, at the KM cost of a car?
As a venture capital firm with a strong record in investing in disruptive technologies, NanoDimension is an ideal partner for H55. Both the company and its founder have received numerous awards in the fields of innovation, entrepreneurship, science and technology. André Borschberg sees NanoDimension’s investment “as our window to the Silicon Valley and as an accelerator to H55’s strategy in being a key player in changing the way people will travel in the future”.
Founder and CEO of NanoDimension Aymeric Sallin feel strongly that H55 is well positioned to be part of the next aviation revolution. “With SI2 (Solar Impulse 2), André flew over the cities of New York and Shanghai and crossed the Pacific. He has more experience of flying electric aircraft than any other pilot or company in the world. He trusted his life with the technology developed by his team to enable perpetual flight. Aviation regulators trusted them as well and certified SI2 allowing them to fly over cities, continents and oceans. When I saw aEro1, H55’s first electric aircraft, I was impressed and convinced. We are honoured to join this venture and to help them to become a leading provider of electric propulsion for the aviation industry.”
Patrick Aebischer, who joined NanoDimension in 2017, sees H55 as an important part of the highly specialized Swiss technology hub, which he was instrumental in creating and growing as President of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL). “What enables innovation is not just new technological solutions, but also the right pioneering mind-set. EPFL was part of the genesis of the Solar Impulse story, the place where the team initiated the first feasibility study. In 2003 Solar Impulse was told that building an airplane with the wingspan of a jumbo jet having the weight of a car was impossible. A few years later the first electric airplane was flying day and night on solar energy. Unquestionably, the H55 team has the right DNA to bring aviation into a new era”.
Through the support and contribution of the Swiss Federal Office Civil Aviation and the Ark Foundation of the Canton of Valais, H55 has already developed its first-generation electric propulsion management system. With an experimentally certified electric acrobatic demonstrator aircraft aEro1, has successfully flown more than 50 hours with a battery endurance exceeding more than 1 hour. H55 is now working on electrifying its second aircraft, aiming to fly 2 hours only on batteries which will begin flight tests in the summer of 2018.