True electric airplanes are far and few between, but last year saw an explosion of two- to four-seat electric airplanes (e-planes) taking off. And they are getting bigger and adding more range, thanks in part to two key airline industry players.
Avinor Goes For Electric Airplanes
Dag Falk-Petersen, chairman of Norwegian airport operator Avinor, used to work for Scandinavian airline SAS before joining Avinor. And he sounds enthusiastic about the future use of local commercial e-planes. In fact, he calls the technology “highly realistic” and presumes that they will fly by 2025.
Hopefully we won’t have to wait to go to Norway to fly electric airplanes. As much as we love Norway, we think that won’t be necessary.
Zunum, the EasyJet and Wright Electric plane partnership, Pipistrel, Hamilton, and a handful of related companies are working hard at making e-planes a reality. As battery energy density shrinks and affordability keeps on getting better, e-planes are getting closer. Many understand that the future of a sustainable aviation industry has to happen through the electrification of airplanes. The Scandinavian countries are a great place to launch this next revolution since these countries historically have shown that they can cooperate intelligently.
According to the Nordic Business Insider, Falk-Petersen was quoted as saying: “Electrification will be the next big thing in aviation. We find that both Airbus, Boeing, and others are now looking for Norway with a view to testing their solutions here and we would like to be a catalyst to get this done.
“The technology already exists and it is by no means utopian that the first [commercial] electric aircraft can fly in 2025.”
Why Electric Aircraft Are So Important To The Future of Airlines
The benefits of e-planes are hard to overlook in a world of fossil fuel uncertainties. Aircraft maintenance and high aviation fuel prices have eaten away at airline profits, and this is often handed down to its passengers. Climate change is as much a threat as ever, and air transport is a major culprit.
The benefits of electric aircraft mobility mean halving the operating costs for airlines. Hopefully, it will mean cheaper flights and the savings passed down to air travelers while also reducing emissions. Another important benefit is that of reduced noise levels, which means urban airports could open up longer landing schedules. Technically, electric aircraft also mean using smaller airports with shorter runways.
As mentioned previously, Scandinavia has been renewable energy and intelligent, cooperative torchbearers in a Western world torn apart with political instabilities. Avinor believes Norway could be a key player in the electrification of the airline industry. As an important side note, an electric power industry organization announced the country could be the world’s first fully electrified country by 2050, according to public broadcaster NRK last month.
This is all nice and dandy, but where are the electric airplanes these companies talk about? We’ve mentioned a few small and private e-plane manufacturers and to date. The Zunum and Wright Electric planes might be the closest to short commercial/passenger electric transport, but neither of them will be launching in the next couple of years, so it’s hard to have a sense of how far away they are.
Another company also invested in the electrification of the airline industry is Airbus. The Airbus E-Fan is part of its electrified aircraft program and it is closely aligned to the European Union’s “Flightpath 2050” program. The program aims to reduce CO2 emissions by 75% per passenger kilometer by mid-century. Airbus has taken the lead with its upcoming E-Fan 2.0, slated to become the first fully electric plane certified to international airworthiness standards. Perhaps Airbus will be first to market?
Final Thoughts & Conclusion on Local Electric Airplane Flights
The future of airlines and air travel is electric. While today’s battery technology is not yet ready for prime time, great advances have been made, including last year, giving us two- to four-seat personal aircrafts. The next step is bigger airplanes capable of bringing ~50 or ~100 people onboard for short distances.
Avinor is betting on the future of e-planes and the electrification of the industry, and we couldn’t be happier. The story keeps developing. Stay tuned to CleanTechnica for the next chapter.