Net zero travel
First all-electric flights likely to be in Scotland
Spirit of Innovation: a net zero future
Scottish air travellers are likely to be among the first to use all-electric planes for commercial flights using a new generation of net zero engines.
A 300 mph prototype using Rolls-Royce engines is currently attempting to break the all-electric world speed record in the south of England.
Rachael Everard, head of sustainability at Rolls Royce, told the COP26 Edinburgh Summit that similar planes could be introduced for internal flights in Scotland within the next five to six years.
“We are demonstrating that all-electric flight is possible,” she said. “We are building a supply chain and a UK based capability and within five to six years we will start to see all-electric commercial flights.
“It is likely to be Scotland that will be one of the first markets to do that.”
The plane on its maiden flight in September
Ms Everard said the planes could currently manage a 200 mile journey, making them ideal for island-hopping and commuting.
She said the big challenge for the industry has been to develop alternatives to fossil fuels and said that a third of an airline’s cost is fuel and at present sustainable fuel is used in fewer than 1% of flights.
Rachael Everard: a long way to go
“We have a long way to go but we believe that challenge can be overcome.”
She also told the summit, organised by Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, that the company was working on postbox size air purifiers for public spaces and on a modular nuclear reactor the size of a football pitch that could provide enough power for a city the size of Edinburgh.
A British company being launched at the Cop26 summit on Friday will unveil technology it claims could enable zero-carbon emission flights running on liquid ammonia by 2030.
Hydrogen is currently seen as the only possible “clean” fuel for future long-haul aviation, but the difficulty of safely storing it in fuel tanks, either as a gas or highly cooled liquid, means aerospace manufacturers have argued that vastly different planes would be needed.
Small reactors could be retrofitted into passenger planes to allow the hydrogen to be obtained from ammonia, according to Oxford University scientists on the UK’s state-funded Science and Technology Facilities Council.
The new joint venture, as yet unnamed, will combine their findings with rocket engine technology from Reaction Engines, with seed funding from cleantech investor IP Group, according to a report in The Guardian.