Ecotricity founder Dale Vince has announced his low carbon spin-off airline Ecojet will use hydrogen-electric propulsion technology pioneered by fellow West Country specialists ZeroAvia.
Ecojet has contracted to buy from Val Miftakhov’s Kemble, Gloucestershire-based manufacturer as many as 70 hydrogen-electric, zero-emission turbo-prop engines.
Vince’s wish is that Ecojet should be the world’s first all-electric airline. Its first paying customers next year on routes into and out of Edinburgh will use conventionally powered aircraft. Once regulation permits in or before 2025, it intends retrofitting its aircraft as soon as possible with ZeroAvia’s ZA600 fuel-cell driven power plants.
Those hydrogen-electric engines use hydrogen in cells to generate electricity. This then powers the electric motors to turn the aircraft’s propellers. Water is the process’s only emission.
Ecojet has in addition placed a larger order for ZeroAvia’s more powerful ZA2000 engine, designed for up to 80 seat regional turboprops. That version is intended to enter service by 2027.
The bigger power plant, Vince believes, will give potential to fly aircraft such as the ATR72 and DASH 8 400 on regional, ‘feeder’ routes across the world.
To bring their ground-breaking technology to market, Ecojet will also be working alongside a second partner MONTE. The plane brokers incorporate a clean technology business hat which works to accelerate the transition to net zero CO2 emissions,.
Working alongside ZeroAvia and MONTE, Ecojet will create the first pathways to hydrogen-electric commercial operations.
Vince observed: “This is big news. Carbon-free, guilt-free flying is just around the corner. We don’t have to give up flying to live a green lifestyle or to get to Net Zero as a country.
“The technology is here now, and the planes are coming very soon“.
Commercial flying accounts for a growing share – currently around 3% – of the planet’s carbon emissions. Said Vince: “Although aviation is responsible for only a small part of all emissions, it occupies a far bigger space than that in our psyche“.
“The hearts-and-minds’ value of this new opportunity outweighs the carbon issue significantly. It shows that everything we need to do, can be done, with a low to zero carbon footprint. And that’s a big encouragement to us all.”
ZeroAvia recently completed a sequence of ten test flights of a prototype of its ZA600 fixed to a Dornier 228 aircraft. In May, the company unveiled its testbed aircraft for testing the ZA2000 engine, a Dash 8 400 76-seat plane provided by Alaska Airlines, as well as announcing rapid progress in developing the core technologies for flying these larger aircraft.
Its founder Miftakhov observed: “Clean aviation will mean increased regional air travel and new routes. Ecojet can capitalize based on their clear focus on low-emission travel“.
The engine-maker’s boss praised the government’s Jet Zero Strategy as setting a great example for the world to follow.
“But the UK can go much further“, Miftakhov added, “by being early to act and introducing some of the first zero-emission routes in the world.”