Traveling: a chance to discover unseen beauty of the Earth. Or to learn heart-warming elements of a culture dating back scores of generations. Or to develop a business opportunity to make your mark on the world.
Traveling offers us unparalleled value. But as discussed in a previous newsletter, there’s no alternative to travel by flight, and at present, aviation with all its carbon emissions is the archenemy of the ozone.
As stated by The New York Times, “Take one round-trip flight between New York and California, and you’ve generated about 20 percent of the greenhouse gases that your car emits over an entire year.” We can’t stop traveling by air altogether, but clearly something needs to change.
Innovation in Aviation
Many airlines are beginning to utilize biofuels produced by various cleantech companies using materials such as algae and food waste. Although biofuels seem promising, the industry has a long way to go. Even if all global biofuel production were allocated to jet fuel, it would supply less than 2% of the necessary fuel for aviation.
So electric planes seems like the most viable option to achieve non-carbon emitting flights. And Solar Impulse, a single-manned airplane that flew around the world on nothing but solar energy, demonstrated that electric aviation is possible.
But electric airplanes on a larger scale that could provide a true alternative to fulfill our commercial flying needs have yet to become a reality. It’s tricky because the planes must store ample energy but batteries are heavy and therefore require even more energy to move.
Some people argue that flying on electricity will never be possible.
Some companies beg to differ…
These Companies Want to Electrify the Sky
Ampaire, a startup founded by Caltech and Stanford graduates with a passion for aviation, has set its course for the low-hanging fruit for sustainable aviation. Ampaire seeks to retrofit common turboprop planes with electric engines. And by doing so, the company predicts lowering operating costs by 25%.
The next step will be to demonstrate its own proprietary tailwind electric jet with a revolutionary design pictured above.
Zunum Areo, a startup cleaning up private jet travel with a range of 700+ miles, states that its operating costs are 8 cents per seat per mile. At that price, a hybrid-electric flight from Los Angeles to the San Francisco area would cost $121. The company has partnered with JetSuite and plans to deliver the hybrid aircrafts in 2022.
Wright Electric is a Y Combinator startup that raised $33M in funding last year and partnered with EasyJet to design an electric aircraft that can fly 335 miles. Given that EasyJet’s average flight time is under two hours, Wright Electric is poised to make these electric flights a reality within the next decade.
EasyJet CEO Carolyn McCall stated, “For the first time in my career I can envisage a future without jet fuel and we are excited to be part of it. It is now more a matter of when, not if, a short haul electric plane will fly.”
Three established companies in their respective industries have also struck a partnership to electrify the sky. Airbus, Rolls-Royce, and Siemens have come together to build the “E-Fan X”, a large hybrid-electric aircraft projected to fly in 2020. Siemens will deliver the two-megawatt electric motors, Rolls-Royce will be responsible for the turbo-shaft engine, and Airbus will conduct overall integration as well as the control architecture of the hybrid-electric propulsion system and batteries.
Act on Climate
Love sushi? Or pho? Or Ramen? That’s great! But you aren’t using disposable chopsticks every time you eat those tasty dishes, are you?
Get yourself some reusable chopsticks to help curb the estimated 25 million trees chopped down each year for one-time-use chopstick life.