Air travel may be on the verge of a new electric age. Air Canada recently announced a purchase agreement for 30 electric-hybrid aircraft. The airline’s investment in Heart Aerospace of Sweden marked a move toward reducing its carbon footprint and creating a lower-emissions fleet.
“The introduction into our fleet of the ES-30 electric regional aircraft from Heart Aerospace will be a step forward to our goal of net zero emissions by 2050,” said Michael Rousseau, president and CEO of Air Canada, in a press release.
The airline said it expects to have these planes in the air by 2028.
The new ES-30 will serve as a regional and commuter flight workhorse for the Air Canada fleet. According to the specifications published by Heart Aerospace, the manufacturer of the aircraft, the ES-30 can hold 30 passengers. The primary propulsion system has four electric motors powered by batteries and a reserve hybrid turbogenerator.
The planes will be able to reach a maximum altitude of 20,000 feet and have a variable range, depending on the specific power source. The company says it can fly 200 kilometers (or 124 miles) when solely using electric power and 400-800 kilometers (about 250-500 miles) when using gas/electric hybrid power, depending on the number of passengers. Air Canada reported these airplanes can recharge in 30 to 50 minutes. For context, it takes roughly 15-25 minutes to charge a Tesla electric vehicle using the brand’s fastest chargers, according to Electrek.
Electric and hybrid cars have been around for years, and the demand for EVs from consumers has been particularly hot in 2022. However, electrifying air travel has been a more difficult problem to solve, in no small part due to the weight of the batteries. But global carbon emissions from commercial flights are expected to triple by 2050, so engineers around the globe have been trying to figure out how to electrify this part of the transportation sector.
Air Canada is joining United Airlines in the quest to add electric-hybrid aircraft to its fleet. In July, United announced its purchase of 200 ES-19 aircraft from Heart Aerospace and possible interest in adding another 100 in the future. The company said that it wants to “reduce greenhouse gas emissions 100% by 2050 without relying on traditional carbon offsets.”