Development of batteries essential for breakthrough of electric aircraft: manufacturer representatives

Source: Xinhua| 2019-03-07 07:26:49|Editor: Yang Yi
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HELSINKI, March 6 (Xinhua) -- The vistas that aircraft would be going electric soon in the wake of the auto industry transition are not becoming true soon. This was the message sent by representatives of the two leading aircraft manufacturers, Airbus and Boeing in Helsinki on Wednesday.

Glenn Llewelly, general manager for the Electrification at Airbus, said that "something has to happen in the energy storage side" for electric aircraft really to take off. "We assume that to happen rather than wait it to happen," he said.

Sean Newsum, director of Environmental Strategy at Boeing, said it would be "a long time away" until electric aircraft would find their way to commercial air transport.

While Llewelly assured Airbus is working aggressively towards the goal and spends a lot of funds on it, Boeing stressed the need to develop current technology more environmentally conscious. A key solution already available is the use of biofuels, Newsum said.

The Finnish state-majority owned airline Finnair had invited the two companies for a press event in Helsinki. Finnish media was left with the notion that there is no easy answers to reducing emissions of aircraft.

In the initial phase electric aircraft would be feasible on short hauls, mainly as a replacement for an automobile or a helicopter.

Llewellyn noted that, for the Airbus test aircraft E-Fan 1 that crossed the English channel in 2015, the battery life was one hour. The unmanned Airbus Zephyr solar powered batteries could last 25 days last summer, he said.

The intention is not that aircraft passenger capacity would be reduced to make space for large batteries, but they have to develop in size and power supply, Llewellyn said.

The Finnish state-owned airport operating company Finavia is currently involved in a project that tests the loading of an electric aircraft in cold Arctic conditions.

Newsum noted that biofuel for aircraft is already technically reliable and the global supply of biomass is sufficient as a base for production. "But an expansion of output in an economically viable way is a challenge."

The Finnish energy company Neste is producing biofuel also for aircraft. It is using for that waste cooking oil and other carbage. However, Finnair is currently able to use biofuel only in flights that originate in Los Angeles.

Arja Suominen, senior vice president for communications at Finnair, said that the oil industry is producing biofuel for the aircraft in sequences and availability in restricted biofuel is also much more expensive than standard fuel.

In addition, in the Nordic area, Sweden last year introduced an environmental tax levied on airline passengers beginning their flights in Sweden. In Finland such a tax has been suggested by the Finnish Green Party, but no steps have been taken.

Finnair CEO Topi Manner recently said Finnair does not consider such a passenger tax sensible. Manner said that it would make no difference between a flight on an environmentally bad, older aircraft as opposed to the latest models. Environmentally conscious passengers should rather have the opportunity to choose a carrier with least polluting aircraft.

Airlines have launched programs where the customers can directly pay for the environmental damage the flight has caused.

Finnair recently introduced a system called "Push for change". A domestic flight passenger can pay one euro, a European short haul customer two euros and a long haul customer six euros. The money will be used for a project in Africa to reduce emissions.