World first as EU regulator certifies electric plane
The EU’s aviation safety regulator has for the first time in history given the green light to an emissions-free aircraft to be manufactured.
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (“EASA”) announced the first type certification, which signifies the airworthiness of the approved design or “type” of an aircraft to be manufactured, for a fully electric aircraft called “Velis Electro”.
The plane, designed by a Slovenian company Pipistrel, could be the first of many that contribute to making a less polluting aviation industry. It is also symbolic for an industry that comes under high criticism for not being more proactive in improving its environmental footprint, in spite of its vast global economic share.
Two consequences of this breakthrough could be a drop in fuel prices as well as greater competition between electric engine manufacturers and airplanes.
“This is an exciting breakthrough,” said EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky. “This is the first electric aircraft EASA has certified but it will certainly not be the last, as the aviation industry pursues new technologies to reduce noise and emissions and to improve the sustainability of aviation.” He added that the type certification “is the first step towards the commercial use of electric aircraft, which is needed to make emission-free aviation feasible.”
The aircraft is considerably quieter than other aeroplanes and produces no combustion gases, according to Ivo Boscarol, founder and CEO of Pipistrel Aircraft. “It provides optimism, also to other electric aircraft designers, that the type certification of electric engines and aeroplanes is possible,” he added.
The Velis Electro is a two-seater aircraft intended primarily for pilot training. Pipistrel is a leading small aircraft designer and manufacturer, specialised in energy-efficient and affordable high-performance aircraft.
CO2 emitted by airlines increased 32% from 2013-2018, according to a report by the International Council on Clean Transportation. The aviation industry is responsible for 2% of global emissions, but is one of the fastest growing polluters. Analysis by The Guardian found that taking one long-haul flight generates more carbon emissions than the average person globally produces in a whole year.
Although the pandemic has caused an inevitable dip in emissions from aviation, if things go back to business as usual, aviation emissions couple triple in the next three years. If we are to have a chance at averting the collapse of our planet, we must drastically reduce our air travel.
Electric planes will not be a commercial reality for many years, so in the meantime, it is down to us to reduce our flights. If you fly for business purposes, assess with your company which flights can be replaced with video conferences. If you fly for leisure a few times a year, try cutting it down to once a year and see where you can travel by train, for instance. Every flight that’s not taken is a win for the environment.
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