Leading European airline easyJet announced its plans to partner with component manufacture Wright Electric to develop a short-haul all-electric aircraft for the commercial market. Even prior to the announcement, earlier in the year the company had articulated its vision for creating an aircraft of this kind.
This was a step in a larger strategy the airline company has “to progressively decarbonise and reduce noise from aviation operations.” Representatives from easyJet expressed their enthusiasm about the upcoming project as well as their endorsement of their partner:
“A collaboration with US company Wright Electric will support the goal for short-haul flights to be operated by all-electric planes. Wright Electric has set itself the challenge of building an all-electric commercial passenger jet capable of flying passengers across easyJet’s UK and European network within a decade.” As a show of goodwill and its dedication to the project, Wright Electric has agreed to complete an all-electric commercial jet that can transport passengers between countries part of easyJet’s flight network. The ambitious timetable is one decade.
A few specs about the new Airbus A320 neo aircraft:
---> It will be battery-powered and seat 150 people.
---> It was designed for short-haul distances of up to 482 kilometers.
---> There is a projected saving in fuel burn and CO2 emissions of up to 15 percent.
The team Wright will be using is the same one that it had been working with on similar electric aircraft NASA projects. Prototypes had been revealed earlier this spring at the annual Y Combinator’s Demo Day. The ambitious startup has only been in operation for less than 2 years, but has already made a big impact.
When one considers easyJet’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions over the past 4 years, it becomes clear why teaming up with Wright was a sound decision: one company has the industry clout required to move the project forward, while the other has the clear aim to guide the process and ensure the vision of environmental impact is maintained throughout.
Carbon Emissions: How Long Can We Wait?
With projections that roughly a quarter of the carbon budget could be eaten up by the airline industry, the issue has gone from growing concern to urgent action: a staggering 43 gigatonnes of estimate pollution. Because business and profit interests dominate, as they do in many industries, international agreements made to counter the effects of CO2 emissions have been met with criticism.
Director of UK-based Sustainable development group Transport & Environment Bill Hemmings, on the subject of these agreements, is clear in voicing his pessimism: “Airline claims that flying will now be green are a myth. Taking a plane is the fastest and cheapest way to fry the planet and this deal [agreed to by International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) national reps to limit greenhouse gases,] won't reduce demand for jet fuel one drop."
For this reason and many others, an electric aircraft, which would satisfy all parties, from environmental activists to industry giants, is a welcome compromise.