United Airlines announced today what could be an important step toward electric commercial flight.
The major airline announced that it invested in Heart Aerospace, a Sweden-based electric aircraft startup, and agreed to buy up to 200 electric planes.
Battery technology has improved enough that short-range commercial planes are starting to make sense.
Several startups are working on viable electric aircraft, and some are starting to get the attention of major airlines.
Heart Aerospace is one of those startups.
The startup is developing the ES-19, a 19-seat electric aircraft meant for short flights. It believes that there’s an opportunity for electric aircraft to reopen short regional air routes with lower costs, thanks to fuel savings.
At first, the startup plans for the ES-19 to only have up to 250 miles (400 km) of range but a commercially viable range for short-range flights with 19 passengers.
Several major companies seem to agree with this strategy, as United Airlines Ventures (UAV), Breakthrough Energy Ventures, which is Bill Gates’s investment vehicle, and Mesa Airlines have announced an investment of an undisclosed amount in Heart Aerospace.
Mesa Airlines is United’s partner in bringing electric commercial flights to market, and together, they announced an order of up to 200 ES-19 planes:
“In addition to UAV’s investment, United Airlines has conditionally agreed to purchase 100 ES-19 aircraft, once the aircraft meet United’s safety, business and operating requirements. Mesa Airlines, United’s key strategic partner in bringing electric aircraft into commercial service, has also agreed to add 100 ES-19 aircraft to its fleet, subject to similar requirements.”
Michael Leskinen, United’s Vice President Corp Development & Investor Relations, as well as UAV’s President, commented:
“Breakthrough Energy Ventures is the leading voice of investors who are supporting clean-energy technology creation. We share their view that we have to build companies who have real potential to change how industries operate and, in our case, that means investing in companies like Heart Aerospace who are developing a viable electric airliner. We recognize that customers want even more ownership of their own carbon emissions footprint. We’re proud to partner with Mesa Air Group to bring electric aircraft to our customers earlier than any other US airliner. Mesa’s long-serving CEO, Jonathan Ornstein has shown visionary leadership in the field of electric-powered flight.”
Heart Aerospace is aiming for the ES-19 to enter commercial use as early as 2026.
While the company aims for 250 miles of range at first, it expects the range to quickly improve with battery technology.
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