Doha, October 2021
Air Travel Set for a Green Revolution
Green flying taxis look set to revolutionise the way we travel in the coming decades with a number of aviation firms investing heavily into the development of battery and hydrogen-powered aircraft.
Virgin Atlantic got the ball rolling this summer after agreeing to purchase between 50 and 150 electric jets that can take off and land vertically (eVTOL) from Vertical Aerospace. Both firms said they are looking to establish air taxi connectivity between UK cities and airport hubs starting with London Heathrow, London Gatwick and Manchester.
There are 37 towns and cities with populations over 100,000 and within 100 miles of London Heathrow meaning the near silent aircraft offer huge potential to support zero-emission short-haul transfers for 7.7 million people outside of London, for flights to and from the UK’s main hub airports.
The momentum for electric air taxis was further fuelled by Brazilian airliner, Azul, who announced plans to buy 220 zero-emissions eVTOL aircraft from German manufacturer Lilium for approximately $1 billion. They expect to start ferrying people from city to city in South America’s largest country as soon as 2025. 
Long haul air transport could also be revolutionised in the years ahead. British manufacturer, Airbus, revealed three conceptual zero-emission commercial hydrogen powered aircraft which could enter service by 2035. The designs will be able to fly up to 2,000 nautical miles and hold a maximum of 200 passengers.
At the launch, Guillaume Faury, Airbus CEO, said the three aircraft “offer the world a glimpse of our ambition to drive a bold vision for the future of zero-emission flight. I strongly believe that the use of hydrogen – both in synthetic fuels and as a primary power source for commercial aircraft -has the potential to significantly reduce aviation's climate impact.”
Despite such promising developments, decarbonising the aviation industry will be one of the greatest challenges companies and governments face to meet the Paris Agreement’s terms.
Electrically charged batteries are heavy and, while cars have roads to help support their weight, planes need to support themselves in the air. Widespread hydrogen adoption in aviation could also be decades away, Aeronautical engineers will need to develop technology that is compatible with commercial aircraft operations.
Innovative propulsion systems, fuel technologies, public acceptance and governmental regulation are all needed if goals set by countries and companies are to be attained.
Energy Tradewinds, the latest research paper from the Al-Attiyah Foundation, explores in-depth what sustainable solutions are being developed and implemented to reduce the aviation and maritime industries’ greenhouse gas emissions.