Heathrow will attempt to position itself as a world hub for electric aircraft as part of its plan to cut noise and emissions when a third runway is built.

Airlines are to be given financial incentives to encourage the use of pure electric and hybrid electric planes at the west London hub, which is Europe’s busiest airport.

The initial commitment is to waive landing fees for a year on the first electric aircraft to be brought into regular service at the airport, in a deal believed to be worth about £1 million. Heathrow says that it will also work with airlines to develop further incentives in the future.

Airlines are competing to adopt electric planes, which will be cleaner and quieter than existing jet fuel-powered aircraft.

Major manufacturers including Airbus and Boeing, as well as a series of smaller start-ups, are attempting to develop electric or hybrid electric planes and it is claimed that they could provide a full passenger service by the middle of the next decade.

In the summer, a pure electric two-seater aircraft manufactured by the Slovenian company Pipistrel flew over Oslo airport as part of the first trial of its kind. The company plans to put a larger four-seater electric hybrid plane into the skies next year.

Easyjet, Britain’s busiest airline, has signed a deal with the American manufacturer Wright Electric with a view to developing an electric jet for its fleet by 2027. It said that the aircraft could replace conventional jets on every journey of up to 335 miles, including routes from London to Edinburgh, within 20 years.

It is believed that hybrid electric planes will be much more viable than purely electric aircraft in the short term. Hybrids are likely to use battery power during take-off and landing and revert to aviation fuel for cruising during longer flights.

The launch of the landing-charge waiver coincides with the continuing development of Heathrow’s plans for a third runway, which the airport hopes will become operational by 2026. The proposals are due to face a public consultation next year.

Clearance for take-off

Wright Electric US company backed by Harvard University is working to develop a full passenger aircraft. A mocked-up electric Easyjet plane was shown last year with propulsion systems distributed along the wing instead of large engines, a battery that can be easily swapped and long, thin wings to reduce drag.

Boeing The company is backing a project by Zunum Aero to develop hybrid electric passenger planes with batteries that can be recharged by the jet engine. It said that the aircraft could be put into service in the next decade, with a battery range of 175 miles that can be extended by up to five times that by the jet-fuel generator.

Airbus Unveiled plans in the summer for a 2 megawatt hybrid electric propulsion system, the E-Fan X, alongside Siemens and Rolls-Royce.



From the Independent, 16th October 2018 :

….the challenge is to create planes that are big enough and have sufficient range to compete with conventional aircraft.

Some of Heathrow’s busiest routes are at the initial target range for commercial electric aircraft: Amsterdam (231 miles), Dublin (280 miles) and Edinburgh (331 miles).

Dozens of projects are seeking to make electric aircraft commercially feasible.

Britain’s biggest budget airline, easyJet, has teamed up with a US firm, Wright Electric, to develop a 150-seat plane capable of flying up to 300 miles. The airline plans to fly from Heathrow when a third runway is built.

The chief executive of easyJet, Johan Lundgren, said: “We support airports who are encouraging airlines to operate the most sustainable aircraft and welcome this initiative from Heathrow Airport.

“We firmly believe it is not if, but when, electric commercial aircraft become a reality.”

The key issue for designers is energy density, which is far higher for jet fuel than for even the most advanced batteries.

Initially many developers are focusing, like Heathrow, on aircraft which combine electric and conventional gas-turbine power.

Using electricity during take-off, when jet engines are noisiest and thirstiest, could dramatically reduce both fuel consumption and noise.

A British Aerospace 146 commuter aircraft is being adapted to carry two tons of batteries and the world’s most powerful flying generator. One of its four engines will run on electricity.

Earlier this year, Norway’s airport operator, Avinor, https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/norway-short-haul-flights-electric-deadline-no-fossil-fuels-climate-change-a8165526.html pledged to switch to electric air transport for flights of up to 90 minutes by 2040.

A leading US start-up, Zunum Air of Seattle, says: “Our aircraft are ‘hybrid-to-electrics’ that sip fuel only when they have to, will use even less over time as batteries upgrade, and will one day go completely without.”