Today, the transport sector accounts for 24% of global CO2 emissions. Air transport accounts for 13.4% of the greenhouse gases emitted by the transport sector, while road transport emits almost three quarters.
These figures illustrate the challenge that societies face in speeding up the ecological transition of means of transport without impacting on their efficiency. The airline industry is one of the players most concerned by the need to find alternatives to conventional aviation.
Many companies have decided to take up this technological challenge by creating projects for aircraft with very low or even zero emissions.
There are many difficulties in proposing aircraft that are both carbon-free and efficient in terms of distance and speed. For these reasons, the decarbonisation of air transport is being initiated by light aviation, with projects for aircraft with 4 to 19 seats, which could be used for regional transport.
This article looks at some promising electric, hybrid and hydrogen-powered aircraft projects.
100% electric aircraft
Alice by Eviation Aircraft: "the Tesla of the air"
A project launched in 2015 by the start-up Eviation Aircraft, the "Alice" aircraft, which will be presented for the first time at the 2019 Paris Air Show, is a prototype 9-seater exclusively electric aircraft that could rapidly become an alternative for medium-sized journeys of 500 to 1,000 km (e.g. Paris-Toulouse). A godsend for poorly served secondary towns. The Israeli company's stated aim: "To change the way people travel".
The result of research by a wide range of partners including Israel, Italy, Singapore, Germany, South Korea, Australia, the United States and... France (the aircraft's hull is manufactured by Multiplast, a company based in Vannes!), Alice represents a real breakthrough in the world of aviation.
« This is a historic milestone in the aviation industry. The introduction of Alice heralds the arrival of a whole new generation of aircraft for the first time in 50 years, and is just the beginning of a promising future for electric aviation and sustainable transport. »
Omer Bar-Yohay, CEO of Eviation Aircraft
Twelve metres long, the aircraft is made of carbon fibre and has three propellers to optimise its performance while consuming as little energy as possible. Alice can carry 9 passengers plus a pilot, and can fly 1,000 km with a range of around 2 hours 45 minutes and a cruising speed of 520 km/h.
The aircraft's in-flight operating costs are expected to be derisory: $0.10 per mile (1.6 km), compared with around $2 for the Cessna Citation Mustang. This would make it possible to travel by plane for the price of a train ticket.
Already available for pre-sale, the aircraft successfully completed its first 8-minute flight in April 2023. Eviation plans to market its new Alice aircraft and bring it into service in 2024.
Cassio 330 by Voltaero
Voltaero's Cassio 330 electric-hybrid aircraft made its world premiere at the 2023 Paris Air Show. The full-size prototype of the aircraft was on display on the Voltaero stand.
The aircraft, which can carry 4 passengers, has a major advantage: its range. The electric-hybrid propulsion system consists of a 250 hp electric motor and a Safran electric motor of equal power. The combination of these two engines gives the CASSIO 330 a range of 3.5 hours, enabling it to make flights of up to 1,200 km.
Several configurations will be available for the interior of the Cassio 330: passenger, medical transport, cargo or transport for people with reduced mobility.
Electric propulsion allows the aircraft to take off and land without any noise pollution. The internal combustion engine is then activated in flight to recharge the electric batteries.
"If all goes well, we will start producing the aircraft for delivery in early 2025."
Jean Botti, Ceo of Voltaero
Voltaero hopes to receive certification from the European Aviation Safety Agency by 2024. The first flight of the Cassio 330 is scheduled for 2023. Voltaero has already received more than 200 pre-orders.
ATEA by Ascendance Flight Technologies
The ATEA project is a hybrid VTOL (vertical take-off and landing aircraft) capable of carrying 4 passengers over a maximum distance of 400km.
Developed by a French company, Ascendance Flight Technologies, based in Toulouse, the ATEA promises flights that are 4 times quieter than an internal combustion aircraft, and a reduction in CO2 emissions of around 80%.
ATEA is a compromise between the aeroplane and the helicopter. It will eventually become the hybrid alternative for inter-regional passenger transport, helping to open up regions by accessing isolated locations. The start-up is also planning to use its ATEA aircraft for medical emergencies, as well as a cargo version for transporting goods.
The aircraft is equipped with 10 engines: 8 for vertical propulsion and 2 for horizontal propulsion.
Thanks to a €21 million fund-raising campaign, the full-scale prototype of the ATEA hybrid aircraft is now under construction and the first test flights are scheduled for 2024.
The official presentation should take place during the Olympic Games in Paris. Ascendance Flight Technologies expects its aircraft to be available in 2025. The Toulouse-based start-up has already announced that it has received more than 300 letters of intent to buy at the 2023 Paris Air Show.
ERA by Aura Aero
Since 2021, France's Aura Aero has been developing the Electric Regional Aircraft (ERA) project, an aircraft capable of carrying 19 passengers and offering a point-to-point mobility solution for the regions.
The final design of the aircraft was unveiled in May 2023: 8 electric propeller motors installed on the wings, 2 thermal turbo-generators (compatible with SAF or sustainable fuels) and 4 electric battery packs. Aura Aero promises a cabin that is 100% bio-sourced, recycled and recyclable.
ERA has an advantage for inter-regional flights: it can land and take off on 800m runways. This advantage reduces constraints by giving it access to many regional aerodromes. Take-off will be full-electric, reducing noise pollution around airports. The ERA aircraft will cover a distance of 1600km.
The support of Safran and Thales in particular has helped to convince a number of customers: Aura Aro has announced 330 purchase intentions for the ERA aircraft.
The first flight is scheduled for 2026, followed by official entry into service in 2028.
Cassio 480 by Voltaero
The Cassio 480 is the second aircraft in the Cassio family developed by the French company Voltaero. We previously presented the Cassio 330, capable of carrying 4 passengers. This higher version can carry a total of 6 people.
Its 480-kilowatt hybrid-electric propulsion system enables it to fly at a cruising speed of 370 km/h over a maximum distance of 1,200 km.
Like its smaller brother, the Cassio 330, the Cassio 480 can be adapted to suit different uses: passenger transport, medical transport, freight transport or transport for people with reduced mobility.
The first deliveries are scheduled for 2024.
Miniliner by Pipistrel
The Miniliner is a project by the Slovenian company Pipistrel, which already offers the first electric aircraft certified by the EASA (European Union Aviation Safety Agency): the Velis Electro, a two-seater used mainly for pilot training.
The aim of this project is to develop a 100% hydrogen aircraft capable of carrying 19 passengers over a maximum distance of 1,500 km.
This aircraft will have no difficulty in penetrating the regional transport market, providing direct connections between different regions.
Pipistrel forecasts availability in 2030.
These projects to develop electric, hybrid and hydrogen-powered aircraft bode well for a sustainable future in aviation.
At OpenFly, we are committed to listing the first aircraft of this type on the platform as soon as possible, to make them available to companies for business travel. It will still take a few years to finalise and adjust the aircraft so that they meet the certification requirements.
In the meantime, we invite you to discover a new way of getting around efficiently while respecting your ecological commitments: hire a private propeller plane from OpenFly with the services of a professional pilot. These light aircraft can be as fast and comfortable as private jets, but emit up to 80% less CO2.