EasyJet developing electric planes for use on short-haul flights
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EasyJet is collaborating with US-based company Wright Electric (WE) to develop and build electric planes that could take to the skies within the next decade for short-haul flights.
WE is currently developing a battery-propelled aircraft for flights under two hours which is designed to cut emissions, noise and fuel consumption.
“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 chief executive Dame Carolyn McCall.
“It is now more a matter of when, not if, a short-haul electric plane will fly.”
WE has already made a two-seater electric plane, but is working with EasyJet to make a much larger vehicle that will seat up to 220 passengers.
It is anticipated that it will have a range of 335 miles (539km), which is enough to fly from London to some popular tourist destinations such as Paris or Edinburgh but won’t be able to reach Southern France or Spain.
McCall said the aviation industry was currently looking to electric technology to reduce its impact on the environment in much the same way as the automotive industry.
The airline’s chief commercial officer, Peter Duffy, said: “You’re seeing cities and countries starting to talk about banning diesel combustion engines. That would have been unthinkable just a short time ago.
“As technology moves on attitudes shift, ambitions change and you see opportunities you didn’t see. This is genuinely exciting.”
He said the partnership will help WE understand what their planes need in order to be commercially successful, such as revenue management and maintenance requirements.
The company is working with several other airlines around the world and believes that electric planes could be up to 50 per cent quieter and 10 per cent cheaper for airlines to buy and operate than traditional aircraft.
Jeffrey Engler, WE co-founder, said he wants to make flying “as clean and sustainable as possible”.
His company is focused on improving batteries and making the aircraft frame as efficient as possible for use with electric motors.
Conventional short-haul aircraft have one large jet engine underneath each wing, but electric planes would have several smaller motors.
Attempts to build environmentally friendly, electric aircraft have been made in the past but most prototypes are currently limited to small, two-seaters with limited range.
Meanwhile, a four-seat passenger plane powered solely by hydrogen took to the skies last September from Stuttgart Airport in Germany.
Yesterday British Airways said it had become the first airline to use remote-controlled tug devices to push back grounded aircraft in airports across its short-haul operations.