Currently, the aviation industry is responsible for about 2.5% of global emissions. But startup company Wright Electric plans to be in the skies by 2026.
Wright Electric will convert existing BAe 146 planes, first made by British aerospace company BAE Systems in the 1980s, into electric planes. Certification processes, which can take years, will be sped up by reusing existing planes, and allow to start flying zero-emissions aircrafts sooner. The company will transition each of a BAe 146 plane’s four jets into new, 2 MW motors until the entire plane is converted by 2026.
“The level of power and weight demonstrated with our new 2 MW motor will become the baseline for any new electric aircraft and is a key technology in our megawatt system,” said Jeff Engler, CEO of Wright Electric.
According to CleanTechnica, the electric planes, called Wright Spirit, will comfortably carry 100 passengers in a quiet ride. The planes will have a range of about 460 miles, which is about a one-hour flight. Wright Electric is focusing on reducing emissions for these short, high-demand flights, to tackle the busiest routes such as Seoul to Jeju, London to Paris, Rio de Janeiro to São Paulo and San Francisco to Los Angeles.
“Aviation has committed to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, but Wright Electric is committed to a 100% reduction in all emissions starting in 2026,” Engler said. “Because we built the world’s largest aerospace propulsive powertrain, we can build the world’s largest zero-emissions retrofit directly serving the world’s busiest routes.”
Wright Electric’s efforts have not gone unnoticed and the company has received funding, contracts, and/or collaborations with several governmental departments, organizations, and airlines to bring this technology to life, including NASA, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Air Force, Viva Aerobus and easyJet.
Flight testing with one electric propulsor will begin in 2023, followed by testing with two electric propulsors in 2024 and leading to flying the fully electric planes in 2026. Additionally, the company is working on developing a plane that will carry 186 passengers with over 800 miles of range, aiming to have it in service by 2030.