Airline confirms plans to operate electric passenger flights within the next decade.
European budget airline EasyJet is to continue its goal of electrifying aircraft, and has outlined a new strategy for its future operations.
The company has also confirmed its collaboration with US aviation innovator Wright Electric, which will “support the goal” for the company’s short haul flights to be operated by all-electric planes.
Wright Electric intends to build an all-electric commercial passenger jet capable of flying 150 passengers across easyJet’s UK and European network within a decade, for distances of around 300 miles. This will be made possible by planes with larger wingspans for more efficient flight, and swappable batteries, which the company says will make turnaround times quicker.
Wright’s intentions were first reported in March, at which point the company said easyJet had expressed interest in the technology. “Easyjet has had discussions with Wright Electric and is actively providing an airline operator’s perspective on the development of this exciting technology,” the airline told the BBC at the time.
The help of a major airline is certainly beneficial to development. “Their insights have been invaluable as we look to commercialise our electric aircraft for the large and growing short-haul flight markets,” Wright founder Jeffrey Engler 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,” EasyJet CEO Carolyn McCall said. “It is now more a matter of when, not if, a short-haul electric plane will fly.”
easyJet also plans to introduce electric, towbarless aircraft tugs, and has launched another partnership with Safran to trial e-taxi hydrogen fuel cell technology.
The question now is which company will be first to take to the skies. Zunum Aero has plans to build smaller electric jets capable of flying 700 miles, potentially reaching the 1000+-mile flight ranges by 2030. Its aircraft will accommodate between 10 and 50 passengers, allowing them to travel via some of the 5,000 underused regional and general aviation airports in the US.
However, the challenge of developing a battery architecture with sufficient energy density to supply the power required, without the prohibitive weight, remains the sector’s biggest hurdle. Wright and all its e-aviation competitors will have their work cut out if those breakthroughs are to be made within the promised decade.