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Air travel accounts for 2% of global CO2 emissions, and that share is expected to rise to 12–27% by 2050[1] if no action is taken. In our previous article about transforming transport to low carbon we indicated that electrical aviation technology is primed to take over short-haul regional flights.

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Data: ATAG and ICAO, Analysis and Visuals: Mike Hassaballa

Data shows that 40% of worldwide emissions are from short-haul flights. About 4% of global emissions are from routes under 200 km, and 9% of global emissions are from routes under 400 km. Today, trips under 1300 km account for about 33% of global emissions.[2]

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Visual: Mike Hassaballa

Electrification changes the equation for regional air travel. Electric aircraft will play an important role in decarbonizing short-haul air travel. Electric aircraft are affordable to buy, operate and maintain. Simple, reliable electric motors reduce maintenance costs by 90% compared to turboprops, and intelligent electronic monitoring reduces inspection needs. Most importantly, fuel costs go down by 50–75%. The unit economics of electric aircraft will be better the shorter the route allowing to operate electric airplanes on shorter routes between neighboring cities and for air taxi services in congested regions. From a carbon emission standpoint, electric aircraft would work best in places with cheap access to renewable energy,  just like electric cars. Therefore, countries that rely on renewable energy sources as well as low carbon electricity from reliable sources such as hydro and nuclear will benefit the best from this technology.

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Visual: Mike Hassaballa

For short-haul electric airplanes, charging should take less than 40 minutes for an average mission, where chargers with the charging power of 1MW per aircraft are required, the cost per charger for the would be around $500k. Battery costs will be less than 2% of the aircraft price and will have 1000 cycles, where these batteries will be retired to other applications after being used in aircrafts, then will be eventually recycled.

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Technological Advantages of Electric Short-haul Air Travel , Visual: Mike Hassaballa

We believe that the opportunity for electric aviation for short-haul flights cannot be missed, the technological aspects are promising and could be a driver for innovations in battery technology, charging infrastructure, electrical grid management as well airport operations.


[1] “A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE – ICAO.” https://www.icao.int/environmental-protection/documents/ICAO%20Environmental%20Report%202016.pdf.

[2] “United Airlines announces purchase of 100 electric planes….” 20 Jul. 2021, https://hotcopper.com.au/threads/the-future.5362741/page-1075?post_id=54643925. Accessed 17 Aug. 2021.

 

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Mike Hassaballa
Mike earned a master’s degree in applied science in 2013, then he launched his career in the data centre industry. In 2015, he shifted gears and took on a Lead Engineer role in a company developing emission reductions technology. He then moved in 2018 into energy consulting. Mike focuses on most critical issues and opportunities in business: strategy, operations, technology, transformation, advanced analytics, and sustainability. Mike writes fascinating stories meant to be read by anyone. He excels in simplifying complex subjects and bringing a fresh new perspective to pressing issues.

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