The sky’s the limit for the world’s first electric airline

07 August 2023 by Jonathan Goldsmith
blog author

​Passengers could soon erase the guilt surrounding their air travel carbon emissions with the introduction of the world’s first electric airline.

Dale Vince, the founder of green energy company Ecotricity, has announced the launch of Ecojet, which will be powered by renewable energy.

This is the latest groundbreaking innovation to boost decarbonisation and disrupt the aviation industry by making net-zero and emission-free air travel possible for the first time.

Decarbonisation can be accelerated by ensuring innovations become mainstream in the 2030s, including sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), permanent carbon removal and the introduction of new technologies such as electric and hydrogen-powered aircraft.

With aviation responsible for around 2.5 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions, the UK government unveiled its Jet Zero Strategy last year with the target of achieving net zero emissions across all airports in England by 2040.

Repurposing old planes

Ecotricity’s pioneering design sees Ecojet’s fleet of conventional planes retrofitted with hydrogen-electric powertrains, which will operate with the same level of power but with the added benefit of a 100 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions.

The decision to repurpose old planes rather than build brand new models is expected to save a staggering 90,000 tonnes of carbon per year. While the only byproduct will be water, this can be mitigated by capturing and releasing the liquid into the lower atmosphere to avoid the harmful effects of contrails, which may contribute to global warming.

Improving environmental impacts doesn’t end there - plant-based meals will be served on board, single-use plastic items will be eliminated and staff will be kitted out in planet-friendly uniforms.

Ecojet’s future flight plans

Ecojet is the result of a collaboration between Dale, experienced pilot Brent Smith and a team of aviation specialists who expect flights across the UK to commence in early 2024.

Initial flights will take off from Edinburgh to Southampton, with plans to expand to mainland Europe shortly after, and later followed with a plan for future long-haul flights.

While waiting for routes and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) license to be secured, Ecojet will launch using conventionally fuelled planes. It will utilise two different turboprop aircraft sizes, a 19-seater and 70-seater aircraft (with a turbine engine that drives an aircraft propeller). The aircraft will be retrofitted with the hydrogen-electric powertrains (once approved by the CAA) with the first retrofits expected to begin in 2025, a year after the flights commence).

Dale Vince said: “The question of how to create sustainable air travel has plagued the green movement for decades, Ecojet is by far the most significant step towards a solution to date.

“The desire to travel is deeply etched into the human spirit, and flights free of CO2 emissions, powered by renewable energy will allow us to explore our incredible world without harming it for the first time.”

Jonathan Goldsmith, Head of Transport and Infrastructure at Acre - UK, said: “This is an exceptional move in the right direction and a prime example of how innovation and technology can synergise to accelerate towards a cleaner economy and healthier planet.

“It is exciting to see how Ecojet will disrupt the aviation industry and prompt other airlines to take action, but as always, collaborating and forming robust relationships between parties to share knowledge, expertise and best practice is the ultimate key to success in decarbonising the industry.”