Electrifying the Airline Industry

electric plane

The European Union aims to be climate neutral by 2050, no longer contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. It’s an immense goal but one that falls in line with their global climate action under the Paris Agreement. Annually, the aviation sector pumps one billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. That’s three percent of the world’s total carbon dioxide emissions.  For the past few years, more than $7 billion has been injected into the aeronautics industry to support start-up companies looking to advance greener technology in the sky. The technology is called eVTOL, electric vertical take-off, and landing. This technology has started a wave of innovation that will eventually ground fuel-based flight. Electric aviation is the future of flight.

Will Electric Planes Ever Happen?

European countries aren’t waiting for the electric planes.  While the United States toyed with the unsuccessful use of sustainable aviation fuels, several European countries began banning short flights (less than 250 miles). For example, France, whose robust train system can provide a quick commute, eliminated short-haul flights which account for roughly 12% of their domestic air travel. Spain, Germany, and nations throughout Scandinavia are also considering similar legislation.

Meanwhile, nearly 200 global companies are pursuing electric plane projects.  What they are finding is that the short routes will launch quicker.  Boing, Airbus, NASA, and Toyota are already rolling out 2- to 4-person planes for corporate and air taxi flights. United, American Airlines, Virgin, and Japan Airlines have all ordered these small planes with plans to put them in service by 2024. This “air taxi” service is meant for big cities to solve commuter issues caused by hours-long backups on local highways. The longer flights will take more time.

Billions of Dollars in Development

While the short-trip planes begin to take to the skies, there is no lack of funding for private research and development.  The latest marriage between Pipistrel and Textron is revealing a slew of green possibilities for air travel. Remember those startups?  They’ve provided the technology that can now be transferred onto the larger airbus.  But don’t put your trays in the upright position yet.  There are still plenty of kinks to work out before the coast-to-coast electric flight can take off. From the weight to the capacity, electric batteries are still a major roadblock.

Other Advantages of Electric Planes

Pipistrel and Textron are rolling out three types of planes that will help the entire airline industry.  The Electro is the world’s first commercially type certified aircraft.  It is designed to help flight schools.  This electric plane will lower the cost of training, improve safety and reduce noise issues at airports.  Look for the Panthera to help you beat the rush hour in LA and New York.  The four-seater will be used in the private aviation market.  Finally, the Nuuva V300 is an unmanned, hybrid-electric aircraft that could reduce the cost of cargo shipments coast-to-coast.

Beyond the obvious advantage of these green planes, for the customer, the cost of a flight will become less expensive. Although most of us will not see the electric advantage for, at least, a decade, once the electric airplanes begin to launch in hubs around the country, we will see relief in our wallets. This sounds like an innovation worth waiting for!

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