Earlier this year, US-based electric plane startup Wright Electric stepped out of stealth to unveil its vision to bring a short-haul all-electric aircraft to market.
Today, they announced that British airline easyJet is joining their effort.
The company wrote in a press release today:
“A collaboration with US company Wright Electric will support the goal for short-haul flights to be operated by all-electric planes. Wright Electric has set itself the challenge of building an all-electric commercial passenger jet capable of flying passengers across easyJet’s UK and European network within a decade.”
The startup is trying the ambitious goal of building a battery-powered 150-seat plane to compete with 737-size aircrafts in the market for short-haul trips (under 300 miles).
That’s the type of trip that works well for a European airline like easyJet. The airline announced today “a strategy to progressively decarbonise and reduce noise from aviation operations.” The collaboration with Wright Electric was first on the list for that strategy.
Carolyn McCall, easyJet’s chief executive, expects the aerospace industry to soon follow the auto industry in an electric transition. She said:
“For the first time in my career I can envisage a future without jet fuel and we are excited to be part of it. It is now more a matter of when, not if, a short-haul electric plane will fly.”
When is apparently roughly a decade according to easyJet and Wright Electric.
Wright Electric, which is obviously named after the Wright brothers, poached engineers from NASA’s program for developing electric aircraft in order to build the technology behind their electric airplane.
They are currently developing all the needed systems to operate a commercial electric aircraft, but they are also dependent on improvements in battery technology, which they are not developing themselves.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who revealed having his own design for a VTOL electric plane, says that such a system becomes possible once battery energy density reaches over 400 Wh/kg, while his Tesla vehicles are believed to be currently powered by battery cells with ~250 Wh/kg.
It’s improving every year and several new technologies are promising much higher energy density. Wright Electric’s vision for battery-powered flights is likely possible, but the timeline is less clear.