Have you ever heard of ‘flight shaming’? In recent years, growing public consciousness of the environmental impact of flying has started a trend of shaming air travellers and airlines alike. Now, with the advent of the coronavirus pandemic and the reduced regularity of commercial flights, the subsequent breathing space afforded to our environment has caused thousands of travellers worldwide to re-consider searching for the lowest impact travel options possible.
It’s within this context, that Heart Aerospace, the Swedish startup that designs and builds all-electric aircraft, today unveils its world-leading electric drivetrain and battery technology for the first time at an event in Gothenburg. This is the latest milestone in the company’s mission to build a 19-seater electric regional airliner, certified for commercial operations by 2025 and completely fossil fuel-free.
A plane only flies when the lift force matches its weight, so the weight of the energy source used to power the plane is crucial. For an electric plane to cover any substantial distance, batteries must pack lots of power and energy – and batteries are heavy. Prior to the deep technology investment driven by the recent explosion of the road EV market, batteries didn’t have the required energy density to make this work. However, as today’s demo shows, meaningful distance can finally be obtained with today’s battery technology.
Founded in 2018 with a vision to create green, accessible, and affordable air travel, Heart Aerospace was spun out of the Electric Air Travel in Sweden (ELISE) project, funded by the Swedish innovation agency Vinnova; it’s also a Y Combinator alumnus. Alongside the environmental impact, benefits include reduced sound pollution, safer operations, and a more cost-efficient service, as electric propulsion systems are vastly more efficient and consist of fewer mechanical parts.
As battery efficiency improves, Heart Aerospace is targeting all short-haul air travel under 2,000 km for electrification. Globally, this accounts for 85% of departures and 43% of carbon dioxide emissions. Heart Aerospace has strong market demand from eight airlines across Europe, North America, and the Asia-Pacific, with expressions of interest to purchase 147 ES-19 aircraft worth approximately €1.1 billion.
Anders Forslund, CEO and founder of Heart Aerospace, said: “The aviation industry is facing a two-fold problem: reconciling itself with a carbon-constrained world and coronavirus hindering passenger demand for flights (particularly long-haul). Before the pandemic, concern was already growing about the environmental impact of flying, contributing to ‘flight shaming’. Next, Covid-19 saw summer flights decline by 90% and Europe spent $36 billion (approx €30.7 billion) on airline bailouts. This is a reset moment, as across the board, the provision of public finance comes with the caveat that bailouts will only be offered in exchange for cutting emissions – and electric aircraft could be the most sustainable and cost-effective way to travel.
Sweden has committed to make all domestic flights fossil-fuel-free by 2030 and Norway is targeting all domestic flights to be 100% electric by 2040. To achieve these goals, we have to get to work now. The technology is here and scale is possible for short-haul flights, which account for nearly half of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. We can’t wait for progress to happen; that’s not how innovation works. Progress happens when engineers commit to achieving a collective goal that benefits humanity – which is exactly what Heart Aerospace is doing. Today’s unveiling is a testament to this ambition and I am delighted to be part of a team powering a greener future for everyone.”