Electric propulsion is slowly taking over almost every segment of transportation, but flight remains the most difficult to electrify.
Now, easyJet CEO says that ‘electric flying is becoming a reality’ as they plan to test a nine-seater electric plane next year.
Last year, electric plane startup Wright Electric stepped out of stealth mode with plans to make commercial electric flight a reality.
A few months later, they announced a partnership with easyJet.
easyJet CEO Johan Lundgren says that they have made progress and he can now see an electric flight future (via CNBC):
“Electric flying is becoming a reality and we can now foresee a future that is not exclusively dependent on jet fuel,”
They plan to start testing a nine-seater electric plane from Wright Electric as soon as next year.
easyJet wants to electrify its short trip routes and it will be one of the first steps toward that direction.
While they are starting with a small plane, Wright 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).
Considering flights under 300 miles consist of 30% of flights and that Boeing and Airbus sold close to 1,000 of those regional airplanes for about $90 million each last year, it’s definitely a huge market. Even if the starting price is higher, the cost of fuel is such a significant portion of the operating cost for airlines that the return on investment could be quick if the batteries are recharged with cheap electricity.
Burning jet fuel is also an important source of pollution and electric flight has the opportunity to fix that.
I am very hopeful about electric flight, as I think batteries are improving so fast that it’s inevitable.
Unfortunately, they’ve had a few setbacks recently with two fatal crashes of two different electric planes: the Siemens electric plane prototype caught on fire in the air and an all-electric Pipistrel trainer plane also crashed recently.
But those tragedies are unfortunately almost inevitable with new flight technologies.
Hopefully, those will be the only deaths linked to the development of electric flight, though I somehow doubt it.
I know it’s morbid, but that’s how most human progress has happened.