Enova grants £6.4m to Elfly’s all-electric seaplane programme


Norwegian state enterprise, Enova has committed £6.4m to Elfly, a Norwegian firm building the country’s first battery-electric passenger seaplane. 

The grant, which amounts to NOK87m, will go towards developing the prototype ahead of testing in 2025. If the prototype tests successfully, Elfly plans to establish flights across Western Norway between cities such as Stavanger and Bergen.

“Seaplanes disappeared from Western Norway and Norway, as it is expensive to operate them, with new technology we can change this,” said Eric Lithun, CEO of Elfly Group.

“We want the business community, residents and tourists to be able to be offered flexible and fast transport from city centre to city centre by seaplane. The fact that the transport alternative is zero-emission and efficient is the key to its being taken up. Much of Norway’s value creation takes place on the coast, we will create a good means of transport for them and the population.”

Elfly’s prototype will largely take off and land on water. The aircraft will have two electric motors that receive energy from around 1.5 tonnes of lithium batteries. The battery pack will be located at the bottom of the composite hull to give the aircraft a low centre of gravity. The removal of the combustion engine, which is liable to corrosion due to the operating conditions, lowers maintenance costs. Elfly’s prototype will have nine seats and a range of at least 170km.

Astrid Lilliestråle, marketing director, Enova said: “Enova supports those who go ahead and this project can contribute to innovation and the development of the technology we need to cut emissions in aviation. The project has a great level of innovation, represents a completely new way of thinking about aviation and can provide low maintenance costs and operating costs.”

The topography in Norway is particularly well suited to air travel. Lithun said that due to the terrain, the time it will take to develop an electric seaplane is around the time it takes to build a new major road or railway section. 

“The government is betting on electric aircraft. Through both the aviation strategy and the way we arrange the infrastructure, we have in practice made Norway ready for electric aircraft. With this grant, we are supporting the development of a short-haul aircraft that can fly between larger and smaller places along the coast, and land both on water and on the short-haul network,” said Lithun.

Most of the Norwegian domestic routes are under 200-300 km and on the short-haul network. “We know we can replace many of these flights and in addition offer flights from airports to water. This opens up opportunities for further development of the short-haul network and ‘new’ airports without construction costs and natural destruction. Imagine being able to offer tourists fjord hopping by seaplane to local historic hotels?” added Lithun.

Norway’s Climate and Environment Minister, Espen Barth Eide added: “As long as we remove the emissions from aviation, air transport is a very energy-efficient and area-efficient form of transport. The aircraft we support now does not use more power for charging than a few Teslas. Since the aircraft can land on water, it can also land in places without runways, and can be put into use without the need for further construction. When you have good concepts and the energy source is clean, it is not at all stupid to fly.”