Are electric planes on their way?

Written by

Lewis Morgan

Posted on

June 17, 2019

The goal to reach net zero carbon by 2050 as recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is without a shadow of doubt an incredibly big challenge.

It becomes even clearer how big the challenge is when you consider the impact of the aviation industry on carbon emissions.

2% of greenhouse gases are caused by aviation, and the number of flights is expected to double in 20 years.

Will electric planes be coming?

Yes, they will be.

The aviation industry certainly haven’t been quick on their feet when it comes to climate change. For example, Ryanair has joined nine coal plants in the list of the EU top 10 carbon emitters.

However, the Paris Air Show this week looks to be focusing quite heavily on the move to electric and hybrid planes.

As the power-to-weight ratio of batteries begins to improve, companies like MagniX are beginning test flights of electric planes. The model MagniX is testing is a retrofitted sea plane so we’re quite some time away from a fully electric commercial airliner!

magniX motor testing in Cessna Iron Bird

“The only option is going to be electric propulsion,” said Roei Ganzarski, MagniX’s chief executive. His company will focus on powering flights of under 900 miles, which accounted for about 45% of trips in 2018.

Commercial planes

Airbus are currently building a hybrid-electric plane and expect its first flight to take place in 2021. However Glenn Llewellyn, general manager for electrification at Airbus, said the technology wouldn’t be viable in larger commercial planes until the 2030s.

Llewellyn described the technology as “disruptive” and said that there’s been huge progress in the technology.

In the next 5-10 years, I expect there to be drastic changes in aviation regulations, pushing the need for hybrid and electric planes. Sweden and Norway have already begun, and are aiming for all short-haul flights to be electric only by 2040.

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