Easyjet is reported to have backed plans to develop and introduce commercial passenger aircraft powered by electric batteries on its short-haul routes, possibly by 2030.
A prototype battery-powered, electric aircraft with a range of 335 miles is already being built by one-year-old US company Wright Electric, the same company that Europe’s no.2 low-cost airline Ryanair has been working in partnership with.
Wright Electric’s prototype is reported to be a nine-seater plane, although its CEO Jeff Engler, is reported as saying that the company is also starting work on a 50-seat version. Wright Electric estimates that an electric aircraft of this kind could reduce the energy costs of a plane by around 30%, and that its 9-seater prototype could be ready for testing by next year.
Easyjet & Wright
Easyjet’s involvement with Wright Electric is thought to date back to May last year when discussions were held with the start-up after it announced its intentions to offer an electric-powered commercial flight from London to Paris in 10 years. Easyjet is reported not to have invested money in Wright, but its validation and support of Wright’s work appears to be a considerable driver in the development of the new type of aircraft.
New Battery Technology = New Aircraft Design
It has been reported that new energy technology that could contribute to lighter batteries will need to be developed to make the development of electric aircraft successful. These new batteries could then be used to power the propellers or fans of aeroplane engines, meaning that motors could then be put inside a plane’s wings, rather than be slung underneath them.
Advantages of Battery-Powered, Electric Aircraft
The advantages of battery-powered, electric aircraft over current aircraft would be huge cost savings (no expensive oil-based fuel required), quieter planes that are also more environmentally friendly (no fuel emissions), more aerodynamic planes with less drag (with motors inside the wings rather than outside), and a more sustainable aviation industry.
Others Working On Electric Planes
Wright Electric is not the only company working on developing battery-powered, electric aircraft. For example, Zunum, backed by Boeing Co, is also reported to be working on an engine turbine from France’s Safran SA to power an electric motor for a hybrid plane, and Siemens is reported to have been working on developing electric motors for aircraft in collaboration with Airbus.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?
For the aircraft industry, the development of battery-powered, electric aircraft could be an important new development with positive benefits. For example, airlines using these aircraft could save money, tackle pollution (noise and emissions), and publicise the environmental benefits to customers as a differentiating competitive advantage that could have positive rub-off value on the aircraft brand. Quieter, cleaner planes could also help airports to reduce their environmental impact, and could provide a feel-good factor to customers.
There are clearly many technological challenges to be overcome first, hence the estimate of at least 10 years development time, but it is exciting and promising to think that planes are going the same way as cars in terms of harnessing new battery / electric technologies and creating more sustainable, lower environmental impact transport for the future. In reality, it seems likely that hybrid versions of commercial aircraft rather than full battery-powered, electric aircraft will be the first to be introduced.
The new technologies developed along the way to producing battery-powered, electric aircraft will, in themselves, also create many new engineering and business opportunities.