UK budget airline EasyJet has paired with US firm Wright Electric to develop a battery-powered aircraft fleet that can be used for its short haul flights.
As part of a wider strategy to progressively decarbonise and reduce noise from aviation operations, EasyJet hopes to build the all-electric commercial passenger jet within the next decade.
EasyJet and Wright Electric envision that the electric planes will be powered by swappable battery packs. A distributed electric propulsion system, which sees electric power shared across motors integrated into the wing, will enable a more energy efficient flight.
The electric aircraft could be used for flights under two hours or 335 miles, which would cover up to 20 per cent of EasyJet's routes flown, including UK and European short-hauls such as London to Paris and Amsterdam, and Edinburgh to Bristol.
Every short haul flight could be electric within 20 years
With commercial electric flights promised within the next decade, the airline says that every short haul flight could be electric within 20 years.
The move makes EasyJet the first major airline to commit to developing all-electric aircraft.
EasyJet has a carbon emissions target of 72 grams by 2022, which would be a 10 per cent reduction from today's performance and a 38 per cent improvement from 2000.
In addition to its commitment to developing electric aircraft, the airline introduced the Airbus A320 Neo aircraft to its fleet earlier this year. The A380 planes offer up to 15 per cent saving in fuel burn and CO2 emissions, and a reduced noise footprint of 50 per cent on take-off and landing.
The airline will also introduce new electric, towbarless aircraft tugs, and has announced that a plan to trial hydrogen fuel cell technology will be implemented in the coming months. These developments will enable the airline to operate a zero emissions taxiing system for its aircraft.
EasyJet reports that since 2000, its emissions have already reduced by over 31 per cent per passenger kilometre.
Easyjet's announcement is the latest development in electric aircraft
The Wright Electric partnership announcement from EasyJet follows an exciting year for the advancement of electric aircraft. In April, Lilium, the "world's first" electric jet plane capable of taking off and landing vertically, successfully completed test flights in Germany, while Airbus presented its concept for a tilting-rotor-powered flying electric car at the Geneva Motor Show, with plans to test it later this year.
In addition, US-based start-up Kitty Hawk revealed a prototype for an electric vehicle that moves like a flying jet ski, which it says will hit the market later this year, and the Daimler-backed autonomous passenger drone company Volocopter reportedly took Dubai's Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed on a 200-meter-high flight across the Emirati city earlier this week.
In an interview with Dezeen last year transportation designer Paul Priestman accurately predicted that electric drones would soon be scaled up to become personal electric aircraft. "I think that's going to get really interesting," he told Dezeen. "It could be the beginning of personalised transportation.