The boss of easyJet says the airline has made significant progress towards its goal of flying fully-electric aircraft on commercial passenger services.
The carrier confirmed that US-partner, Wright Electric, has applied for the patent on a “novel motor design” for an “easyJet-sized aircraft” capable of flying up to 270nm (500km). Aircraft designer Darold Cummings has been enlisted to work on the pioneering project which could see easyJet passengers flying on fully-electric aircraft by 2030.
The popular London to Amsterdam route – Europe’s second busiest city pairing by passenger numbers – is seen as a strong contender for the first operations thanks to the relatively short distances involved and solid customer demand.
Wright Electric said it has also started work on an electric engine capable of powering a nine seater aircraft. The first test flights are expected to take to the sky as soon as next year, representing a major advance from the existing two seater example. The Los Angeles-based start-up says the prototype propulsion system for the nine seater type is four times more powerful than the system installed on earlier models.
In a statement, easyJet said this latest news represented an “exciting development [which] suggests that the transition towards an all-electric commercial passenger jet capable of flying passengers across easyJet’s UK and European network is in sight.”
Johan Lundgren, CEO of the British low-cost giant was upbeat in his analysis and commented: “The technological advancements in electric flying are truly exciting and it is moving fast. From the two seater aircraft, which is already flying, to the nine seater which will fly next year, electric flying is becoming a reality and we can now foresee a future that is not exclusively dependent on jet fuel.”
Jeffrey Engler, CEO of Wright Electric, added: “We are excited about what the next year holds. EasyJet has been a fantastic partner, and we look forward to helping introduce low-emissions low-noise aviation to Europe.”
Separately, speaking at the BusinessGreen Leaders’ Summit in London earlier in the month, Heathrow Airport’s chief executive John Holland-Kaye offered free landing charges for a year to the UK’s first electric aeroplane. The airport has effectively started the clock ticking on the UK’s first electric commercial flight by announcing the prize valued at almost £1m.
Holland-Kaye stated that innovators are facing two major hurdles, the cost of developing hybrid electric aircraft, and the current demand. The prize is designed to incentivise airlines to invest in electric technology, helping to increase demand and speed up the arrival of zero emissions flights at the UK’s biggest airport.