The UK-based low-cost airline EasyJet announced plans to build an electric 120/220-seat passenger plane to be used on around 20 percent of its destinations that last no more than two hours (covering a maximum distance of about 540 km), such as trips between London and Paris or Berlin and Vienna.
To make this ambitious plan a reality, the company had formed a partnership with the US firm Wright Electric and tasked it with developing a commercial-scale aircraft with electric motors in the wings that draw energy from batteries.
The main reason
According to company management, the main reason for transitioning to greener alternatives is the environment – the first step in reducing its carbon footprint took place between 2000 and 2016, during which time EasyJet managed to cut carbon emissions per passenger per kilometre by 31 percent.
As the private car industry moves toward electric vehicles, and conservation efforts intensify to reach global climate goals, commercial airlines are likely to feel pressure to make their own contribution as well.
“For the first time in my career I can envisage a future without jet fuel and we are excited to be part of it,” said EasyJet CEO Carolyn McCall. “It is now more a matter of when, not if, a short-haul electric plane will fly.”
In addition, the planes will be 50 percent quieter and 10 percent cheaper for airlines to buy and operate, claims Wright Electronics, which had come to prominence by building a two-seater prototype.
The US company, founded by aerospace engineers, powertrain experts, and battery chemists in 2016, aims to make all short flights electric in the upcoming two decades.
“You’re seeing cities and countries starting to talk about banning diesel combustion engines. That would have been unthinkable just a short time ago,” said EasyJet CCO Peter Duffy. “As technology moves on, attitudes shift, ambitions change and you see opportunities you didn’t see. This is genuinely exciting.”
The prototype electric aircraft is set to be unveiled in 2021, while the finished model should take off by 2027.