Surf Air Mobility, the parent company of membership-based virtual charter carrier Surf Air (URF, Santa Monica), has announced an order for 100 Cessna (single turboprop) C208EX Grand Caravans with a proprietary hybrid-electric propulsion system. The order also includes a further 50 options.

The company said it would acquire the turboprops from Textron Aviation with conventional internal combustion engines. However, before entering service, the aircraft will be modified by Surf Air Mobility with a proprietary hybrid-electric propulsion. Surf Air Mobility plans to induct the first aircraft in 2024 and will lease them to "new and existing operators, and bring the benefits of lower cost, lower emission air travel to customers sooner than the rest of the aviation manufacturing industry and at scale".

"Hybrid electric propulsion technology, deployed at scale for environmental and commercial benefits, is an important part of the future of travel. This relationship with Surf Air Mobility leverages the unique performance capabilities of the Cessna Grand Caravan in both passenger and cargo operations, and continues to demonstrate the aircraft’s adaptability for innovative missions and configurations," said Ron Draper, President and Chief Executive of Textron Aviation.

Surf Air Mobility underlined that the hybrid propulsion system should lower both the C208EX model's emissions and operating costs by around a quarter with no decrease in performance compared to conventional variants. The technology will not require airport charging stations, allowing for simple roll-out across the country. The agreement with Textron Aviation is exclusive, granting Surf Air Mobility the benefit of being the first carrier to deploy the hybrid variant of the nine-seat aircraft.

Surf Air Mobility owns Surf Air, online aviation marketplace BlackRock, and following a transaction earlier this year, hybrid-electric propulsion start-up Ampaire.