Airbus and Scandinavian Airlines to explore potential of electric aircraft

Airbus and SAS Scandinavian Airlines will work together to research electric and hybrid aircraft.

The agreement means the two firms will work on a joint research project to build an understanding of the opportunities and challenges involved with the large-scale introduction of full electric and hybrid aircraft to airlines.

The project will initially focus on the impact of ground infrastructure and charging on range, resources, time and availability at airports.

The collaboration also includes a plan to involve a renewable energy supplier to ensure ‘genuine’ zero CO2 emissions operations are assessed.

The Global Aviation Industry (ATAG), which includes Airbus and SAS Scandinavian Airlines, has committed to achieving carbon-neutral growth for the aviation industry as a whole from 2020 onwards, cutting aviation net emissions by 50% by 2050 (compared to 2005).

Grazia Vittadini, CTO of Airbus, said: ‘We are delighted to be embarking on this partnership with SAS. Leveraging our respective expertise to explore the potential of hybrid-electric propulsion opportunities in our aviation ecosystem.’

Electric aircraft has been touted as the future of aviation for decades but movement on the technology has been slow due to concerns over cost and how to store the onboard battery energy source, which is much heavier than jet fuel.

In the EU, airlines sign up to an emissions trading system (EU ETS) which they call the ‘cornerstone’ of tackling climate change and reducing emissions for aviation.

They set a cap on the total amount of emissions which is reduced over time so that total emissions fall.

Airlines can receive or buy emission ‘allowances’ which they can trade with emission-saving projects around the world, and each year a company must have enough allowances to cover all its emissions or faces heavy fines.

But with net CO2 emissions from aviation increasing every year, industry observers have called the ETS a failure.

The collaboration between Airbus and SAS will begin next month and will continue until the end of 2020.

Photo credit – Airbus