The dream of boarding an electric commercial passenger airplane and flying from A to B with minimal carbon emissions has taken a step closer to reality with the announcement of a new aircraft that could be operational within three years.
Cranfield Aerospace Solutions (CAeS) said Monday it is working on developing the UK’s first all-electric powered aircraft, with commercial flights coming as early as 2023.
Experts will work to convert a nine-seat Britten-Norman — an aircraft often used for short flights between islands — by integrating an hybrid-electric propulsion system into the vehicle.
The aircraft will be capable of taking off and flying short routes fully electric, a spokeswoman for Cranfield University confirmed to CNN, while a low emission engine will work to recharge the aircraft’s batteries during the flight.
The Project Fresson program is funded by a £9 million ($11.7 million) grant from the UK government, according to a press statement released on behalf of CAeS, a subsidiary of Cranfield University.
The aircraft itself will come from British manufacturer Britten-Norman, while the vehicle’s power management system will be supplied by Rolls-Royce.
The electric motor will come from the Denis Ferranti Group, with batteries from Delta Motorsport.
Flights on the hyrbid aircraft are initially expected to take place between Scotland’s mainland and its Orkney archipelago, a spokeswoman for Cranfield University told CNN. It could be adopted around the country and further afield, she added.
The spokeswoman told CNN that the project has received strong interest from operators. She said that Scottish carrier Loganair could soon be using the aircraft, with commercial flights starting in 2023.
Paul Hutton, CEO of CAeS, has said the development will accelerate a “green transport revolution.”
As travelers grow increasingly aware of the impact of aviation emissions on the environment, industry experts and airlines are trying to improve the environmental credentials of air travel and reduce their carbon footprint.
Other companies are also interested in electric aircraft. Israeli aviation company Eviation Aircraft said at this year’s Paris Air Show that US carrier Cape Air is going to be the first customer for its electric airplane. Dubbed Alice, it’s ambitiously scheduled for 2021 certification.
Meanwhile, Airbus is working on the E-Fan X hybrid-electric project and also created a concept aircraft with a design that mimics a bird of prey, with plans to make it a hybrid-electric turbo-propeller aircraft.
In July, Los Angeles-based aviation company Ampaire announced it would start testing aircraft partly powered by electricity on some commercial routes later in 2019.