This article was written by Josef Mouris CEO & Co-founder at ELECTRON aviation & ELECTRON aerospace. Josef will be a speaker at the Green Future Conference in Split, Croatia.
The energy sector has been investing for over two decades into cleaner energy such as wind and solar. Scale has been reached where now this is the cheapest form of energy bar none. As a result of the expansion of wind and solar energy (and the move away from coal to gas) in the USA, EU and other parts of the world, the energy sector is now no longer the number one source of greenhouse gas emissions in those regions. There, the new “king” is transport, and this sector is not showing any signs of reducing its emissions.
“It’s very hard to move the needle when there are 2 billion combustion engine cars in the world, and we are barely producing a couple of million EV’s a year” says Josef Mouris, a professional pilot with 15 years of experience who is now leading the implementation of EV battery technology in aircraft at ELECTRON aviation and ELECTRON aerospace.
“At ELECTRON, our ambition is to not only remove emissions from aviation, but to help remove emissions from other modes such as road and rail as well.”
At the time of writing there are less than 30.000 commercial aircraft active in the world. According to ELECTRON’s CEO, “if we made 10.000 a year it would only take 3 years to replace them all.” Sadly, battery electric aircraft do not have the needed range to fly long distances yet. But the technology is already perfectly usable for short distances of around 500 km in purpose built electric planes. The limiting factor being battery energy density, but things are looking up. Batteries have a long history of improving and are nowhere near their maximum theoretical limit.
At around 1000 wh/kg, which is expected by 2050, we could very easily see 1500 km flights, which is approximately the distance between London and Split by plane in one flight. However, my flights as scheduled today to get from London to Split for the GREEN FUTURE conference are not direct but have 1 stop at Vienna on the way there and Munich on the way back. Zurich would be perfectly halfway between and only require a 750 km range. This will be possible already in 2030.
As such, electric air travel will revolutionise the way we travel medium range distances by providing fast, convenient, direct travel at low cost. Requiring considerably less infrastructure and running on sustainable green energy generated at or near the airports.
When considering all relevant factors such as infrastructure and the passenger kilometres a road vehicle will deliver in its useful life, battery electric flying has the potential to be the cleanest form of transport bar none!
It is also important to realise that a large proportion of the emissions from passenger flights come from shorter distances as they are flown more often. Roughly 1/3 can be abated if we could have a battery electric aircraft with only 1500 km range.
Like in the automotive sector, first adopters of this mode of transport will be wealthier people. They are also responsible for the majority of the emissions, and we already see businesses moving away from short haul flying for their staff. But make no mistake, battery electric flying will be far cheaper than today’s jet fuelled aviation and may be price competitive with high-speed rail.
Aside from reducing emissions, it is also imperative to halt deforestation and restore the natural CO2 abatement nature has provided. This, on its own, is a colossal challenge Just to put things into perspective, here is how various sectors/sources compare globally looking at fairly optimistic numbers.
And no, as you can see Hydrogen isn’t the easy solution, it’s currently a huge problem. Hydrogen is a big source of greenhouse gases (nearly as big as aviation at over 830 mil tons of CO2). This needs to be addressed first before looking at increasing our Hydrogen consumption.
We have also lost HUGE areas of natural forest due to deforestation which we are simply unable to replace on short notice. This means that our ability to capture CO2 from the atmosphere has significantly reduced over the last hundred years and beyond. Even if we replanted all the trees now, it would take a couple of decades before this would result in the same rate of carbon absorption, as baby trees do not capture anything close to as much as grown trees.
The scale of which deforestation continues to happen is truly scary!
Sadly, the rate of deforestation is growing is growing, with Brazil’s former head of forest services, Tasso Azevedo, claiming that the pace of deforestation has increased by almost 70% in 2022 compared to a year earlier, and that over 1000 km2 of Brazilian rainforest was lost in April alone.
Do you really think you can offset your flight’s emissions by planting a few trees or not cutting them down? The earth’s atmosphere does not lie, if you are in any doubt about how well we are doing, just look at the atmospheric data.
And please please please, do not think carbon capture (CCS) will come to the rescue. But there are other articles on that subject.
This article was written by Josef Mouris. Josef is the Co-Founder and CEO of ELECTRON aviation and ELECTRON aerospace. His love of aviation is reflected in a career spanning over two decades; and most recently, his relentless commitment to addressing climate change by pioneering on-demand zero emissions air travel which is both accessible and affordable. As a professional Airline Transport Pilot (ATP), Josef has 15 years flying experience at Flybe, the largest regional airline in Europe; along with some 23 years of piloting gliders, designing aerofoils, propellers, and electric aircraft privately, he is well-equipped to lead the charge of implementing EV battery technology into next-generation aircraft design and manufacturing. You may meet Josef at the Green Future Conference in Split, Croatia.