Getting to net zero emissions in aviation is certainly a hard problem. Luckily, there are many smart people working on decarbonizing aviation at an astonishing pace. Regulations are starting to have an effect as well but more about that later on this site.
With this article, we’ll kick-off our new series about the state of getting to net zero emission in aviation. “Net zero” means that some areas might not be able to achieve true zero emissions for the forseeable future, but these emissions can be off-set by one or several methods such as by using Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAFs) or by carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) such as direct air capture (DAC) done by Climeworks and others. Over the next couple of articles, we will dive into the following industry segments regarding their state towards net zero: General Aviation, VTOL, Business Aviation, Initial Training, Short haul commercial flight and Medium and Long haul commercial flight.
First things first, let’s start with the General Aviation segment.
Flight training for private pilots, leisure flights and any non-commercial flights are currently performed mostly on single engine aircraft types powered by small or medium sized combustion engines. Common fuels used are AVGAS, MOGAS or Jet A1 (for Diesel or turbo prop engines). Notable airframers in no particular order include Cessna Aircraft (by Textron Aviation), Piper Aircraft, Diamond Aircraft, Tecnam and Cirrus Aircraft.
Electric flight has its origins within general aviation, with the Velis Electro from Pipistrel being the first EASA certified electric airplane within the CS-LSA category. Endurance of 50min is enough for pilot training in close proximity to the base of a flight school. While Pipistrel does not disclose overall sales or delivery numbers for the Velis Electro, the aircraft is clearly the best selling electric aircraft as of today. Recent large orders were revealed such as the one by Green Aerolease from France, ordering 50 aircraft of the type. The same order size has been reported by the company Green Airside from the UK, having already purchased 10 of the planned 50 aircraft. Both companies plan to lease the aircraft to flight schools.
The general aviation market segment sees more and more existing airframers dipping their toes into electric flight. The recent announcement from Diamond Aircraft unveiling their new eDA40 is one example. However, some large manufacturers like Piper, Cessna or Cirrus have not made visible moves yet within the single engine light aircraft category. New manufacturers such as AuraAero are using single engine small series aircraft to prove their technology and expertise before scaling up to larger aircraft categories.
Of course the job of getting to net zero emissions within General Aviation is not done with the certification and production of an electric airplane. Improved battery technology or more efficient and cheaper fuel cells are needed to increase flight time and range. In our opinion, abundant charging infrastructure with green, renewable power is absolutely key to have true zero emissions for General Aviation. Again, Pipistrel Aircraft in joint venture with Swiss company Green Motion (now part of Eaton) announced in September that SKYCHARGE, their charging solution has just become the world’s first OEM-independent electric plane charger to be approved by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).
NetZero.aero rating 2021
Segment: General Aviation
Outlook of getting to net zero emissions: ***** (5/5).
Comment: We believe it’s possible that this segment reaches net zero or even true zero emissions in the long term future.
Current state of the whole segment: * (1/5).
Comment: While the last decade has seen huge advancements in almost all aspects, the market segment is still heavily dominated by aircraft with fuel burning engines.
Overall rating: *** (3/5).
Next in our series we’ll have a look at the ever growing VTOL segment. Please subscribe to our newsletter and we’ll notify you once the article is out.