British entrepreneur Dale Vince announced plans this week to launch an electric airline that will be powered using renewable energy — and those behind the project hope it will mark the start of a new era in air travel.
The formation of Ecojet represents the latest attempt to reduce the environmental footprint of aviation.
The venture says flights in the UK are set to begin in 2024. Trips to mainland Europe will follow, and long-haul journeys are also in the works. Ecojet will use 19- and 70-seat turboprop aircraft. While the goal is for the airplanes to use hydrogen-eventually, initial flights won't.
"Short-term, to secure routes and a licence from the Civil Aviation Authority, Ecojet will initially fly using conventionally fuelled planes," a statement issued Monday said.
It went on to state that the aircraft would be "retrofitted with the hydrogen-electric power trains as soon they become approved for service by the CAA."
The first retrofits are slated for 2025, a year after flights begin. Onboard meals will be plant-based, and single-use plastic will be scrapped.
The new venture hopes to be able to repurpose aircraft instead of building new ones "will save 90,000 tonnes of carbon per year," the statement added. "The only byproduct will be water, which can be captured and released into the lower atmosphere to avoid the harmful effects of contrails," it said.
Vince, who is the founder of British energy firm Ecotricity, was keen on Ecojet's prospects. "The question of how to create sustainable air travel has plagued the green movement for decades," he said. He went on to describe Ecojet as "by far the most significant step towards a solution to date."
Aviation currently accounts for approximately 2-3% of manmade global carbon emissions, but without action, aviation could consume up to 22% of the global carbon budget by 2050. To maintain growth and at the same time address its environmental impact, the wider aviation industry has committed to reducing net aviation carbon emissions to 50% below 2005 levels by 2050.
While sustainable aviation fuel is widely considered a near-future solution, the industry also has high hopes for hydrogen. Central European budget carrier Wizz Air is already exploring the potential for hydrogen-powered aircraft operations under an agreement with Airbus. Long touted as a sustainable fuel, hydrogen is now gaining serious traction as a possibility for aviation, and already tests are underway to prove its effectiveness.
Commercial airline jets using hydrogen would emit only water, and initial tests suggest they can be just as fast as traditional planes, carrying more than a hundred passengers per flight over thousands of kilometres. However, a report on the potential of hydrogen-powered aviation said such aircraft could enter the market as soon as 2035.
In today’s aircraft, wings are where the fuel is stored, and they are in no way large enough to store the hydrogen that would be needed for a long flight. Hydrogen planes of the future could have extra-large fuselages, but more likely they will be what’s called blended wing, in which the planes are shaped like large triangles. This would allow them to store more fuel, but also reduce fuel consumption to make the aircraft aerodynamics even better.
Aircraft using hydrogen would emit only water, and initial tests suggest they can be just as fast as traditional jets, carrying more than a hundred passengers per flight over thousands of kilometres.
Most of the world’s hydrogen today is produced by reforming methane from natural gas – a fossil fuel – which produces carbon dioxide. Efforts are underway to develop green hydrogen by using an electric current from a renewable source to convert water into oxygen and hydrogen and reduce emissions in its production. If that is possible, along with no emissions from the planes themselves, aviation could become a green form of travel.
The industry knows that there are significant challenges ahead If Europe were to fully achieve the environmental benefits of hydrogen-power – for example, for air travel, the production of clean – or green – hydrogen needs to be dramatically scaled up. Today only a tiny fraction of hydrogen used in Europe is categorically “clean.”
European aircraft manufacturer Airbus notes that, if generated from renewable energy through electrolysis, given the fact it emits no CO2 emissions, hydrogen will enable renewable energy to potentially power large aircraft over long distances but without the undesirable by-product of CO2 emissions.© Gulf Times Newspaper 2022 Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (Syndigate.info).