Norway as seen from a plane

Norway to begin electrifying its aircraft

Image credit: Dreamstime

The Scandinavian country’s state-owned civil airport operator is aiming to electrify all short-haul flights by 2040.

Norway is the electric vehicle capital of the world. In 2016, Norwegian politicians from across the political spectrum agreed to aim to phase out fossil fuel-based cars by 2025, using incentives to encourage the purchase of electric and hybrid cars. By December 2017, more than half of new car sales in the country were of electric vehicles.

Although Norway is the largest exporter of oil and gas in Western Europe, 98 per cent of the country’s electricity is generated via hydropower, meaning that its electric vehicles are among the cleanest in the world.

Now, the country is aiming to move towards electrifying its off-road vehicles.

In an announcement this week, Avinor, a government-owned company which operates most of Norway’s civil airports, announced that it would aim to move to 100 per cent electric flights. It set a goal of electrifying all short-haul flights by 2040.

“We think that all flights lasting up to 1.5 hours can be flown by aircraft that are entirely electric,” said Dag Falk-Peterson, chief executive of Avinor, in a statement to AFP.

This would include all domestic flights and flights to other Scandinavian capitals, he said. Avinor is working on a tender offer for a small electric aircraft with 19 seats which could be trialled in commercial flights by 2025.

Electric planes are cheaper to run, and are reportedly less noisy than standard planes. In the coming years, Avinor intends to phase in biofuels for aircraft in order to reduce its carbon footprint before going electric.

Although electric aircraft have been flown in demonstrations for decades, such as with the much-publicised flight of the Airbus E-Fan across the English Channel in July 2015, they have yet to go mainstream. At present, the storage capacity of the batteries is not great enough to compensate for their weight.

As rapid advances in battery technology improve energy density, however, it is likely that other vehicles will follow cars and trucks in going electric.

In March 2017, a US-based tech start-up, Wright Electric, revealed plans to build an electric 150-seat plane for short-haul flights; in September EasyJet announced that it was working with the start-up. In November, Airbus announced a partnership with Siemens and Rolls-Royce to develop a hybrid aircraft demonstrator, the E-Fan X, which could fly as early as 2020. Other established companies and start-ups have also thrown their hats into the ring with plans for electric aircraft.

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