How far away is a fully electric passenger plane?

Sustainability and net-zero emissions have reached the aviation industry, where start-ups, major aircraft manufacturers, aerospace engine manufacturers and even NASA are developing and testing battery-powered aircraft.

The world’s first all-electric commuter plane is preparing for its first flight, which is expected to take place in a few weeks, thanks to the company Eviation. Evasion Alice all-electric aircraft has a maximum range of 440 nautical miles (just over 500 miles). Battery technology is much more difficult to perfect in planes than in cars, not only considering the range of the battery but also the weight of the battery, which, currently, is a big drawback for electric planes that become competitive with large passenger aircraft.

A true electric aircraft with the capability and technology to carry as many passengers as the kerosene-powered aircraft is a decade or more away.

Still, start-ups and traditional aerospace companies are working on developing all-electric planes, and some say they’re ready for first flight.

One is Eviation’s Alice, who underwent engine trials north of Seattle last week. The plane is weeks away from its maiden flight, Eviation CEO Omer Bar-Yohay said. CNN Business.

Eviation designed three versions of Alice – a shuttle to carry nine passengers, a six-passenger executive configuration, and a freighter configuration.

Unveiling the executive setup in December, Eviation VP of Sales Jessica Pruss noted, “It is electrifying to present the design today and to announce that we are currently taking orders for the aircraft which will be delivered in 2026.”

Freight configuration also has orders, such as DHL Express order last year, 12 all-electric Alice eCargo aircraft from Eviation, which plans to deliver the Alice electric aircraft to DHL Express in 2024.

Other aerospace companies are also working on electric planes.

NASA and GE Aviation announcement in 2021 a new research partnership, aiming to conduct ground and flight testing of a megawatt (MW) class hybrid-electric propulsion system by the mid-2020s. As part of the Electric Powertrain Flight project NASA Demonstration (EPFD), $260 million will be invested by NASA, GE Aviation and their partners over five years to accelerate the introduction of hybrid electric flight technologies for commercial aviation.

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This week, GE Aviation said it had Boeing selected to support flight testing of the hybrid-electric propulsion system using a modified Saab 340B aircraft and CT7-9B turboprops.

“Working with GE Aviation, we will have a significant impact on the advancement of electrified propulsion for commercial air travel,” said Per Beith, president and CEO of Boeing subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences.

Aerospace engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce noted last month that its ‘Spirit of Innovation’ all-electric aircraft is officially the fastest all-electric aircraft in the world, having set two new independently confirmed world records.

“This is another step that will help make ‘jet zero’ a reality and support our ambitions to deliver the technological breakthroughs society needs to decarbonize air, land and sea transport,” said Warren East. , CEO of Rolls-Royce.

Along with major advancements in battery and propulsion technology, the all-electric passenger plane will also need to be clearly regulated by aviation authorities. The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), for example, is still working on guidelines and adding regulatory framework for electric planes.

“Some certifications may require the FAA to issue special conditions or additional airworthiness criteria, depending on the type of project. Determining the qualifications of these aircraft is an ongoing process,” an FAA spokesperson told CNN.

Commercial passenger jets are at least a decade away, analysts say.

If all-electric commuter and charter jets take off, it could be the turn of electric commercial passenger jets.

“For that, we need Boeing or Airbus to come out with a real electric plane. I would see that in about 10 years,” Ross Aimer, CEO of Aero Consulting Experts, told CNN.

As aerospace companies try to figure out the all-electric aircraft, oil majors are eyeing a much cheaper solution for net-zero flying: sustainable aviation fuel. BP collaborate with British Airways on Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), Shell targets at least 10% of its global aviation fuel sales will be SAF by 2030, while TotalEnergies spear Production of SAF at its Mede biorefinery in southern France and its Oudalle plant near Le Havre last year.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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