Electric Airplanes Are Coming

1 min read

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.

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]

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.

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.

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.


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.

3 Replies to “Electric Airplanes Are Coming”

  1. The climate can’t wait for electric planes. In my opinion, this will play a major role in the fight against global warming.

  2. I find this estimate about how air travel will have such a large share of CO2 emissions by 2050 interesting and somewhat I am questioning this figure. is it because the other CO2 emittents will decrease emission so much or is it because air travel is supposed to grow a lot more? Then I do not see the reason for air travel growing that much more except some small percentage point due to gloabl population growth.
    2) I find this fact “Data shows that 40% of worldwide emissions are from short-haul flights.” very worrisome and we should indeed reflect on ourselves and our commitment to saving our planet. it reminds me of the decadent 20€ flights for one day to some city nearby to just have a stroll and sip cafe in paris and fly back in the evening. horrible!

  3. In general I am not so convinced that we as a planet can switch this easily to so much electric vehicles, be it planes or cars. The infrastructure investment for an upgrade of the electric grids would be huge if the ratio of cars improves much more towards electrical (especially if so many people then use all these power chargers). then add on top of that airplanes, so either you have many micro power plants (renewable, so only sun, wind and geothermal comes to mind) or you have large ren.plants but then need to upgrade the grid. in each case we need a hell lot of infrastructure investment. I am not talking about lithium extraction and the problems that go with it. but I heard about this startup in the USA that does lithium recycling on a large scale. that idea/initiative gives me hope.
    all in all not a trivial solution to just say oh let’s electrify our planes/cars and we can save that much in CO2
    I would have hoped the author took that into consideration as well

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