United Airlines intends to offer travelers flights on board electrically powered aircraft by 2026. The trailblazer for this futuristic project in short haul air traffic is the purchase of 100 Heart Aerospace produced ES-19 turboprop aircraft capable of flying up to 400 km (250 miles) on electric energy, accommodating 19 passengers. United’s advance will serve as role model, giving an enormous boost to decarbonize regional air travel including cargo carriage over short distances.
The decision to purchase the aircraft comes as a consortium of United Airlines Ventures (UAV), Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV), and Mesa Airlines announced a financial investment in aircraft manufacturer Heart Aerospace. However, the trio has not disclosed the amount of money they’ve channeled into the manufacturer. Michael Leskinen, United's Vice President Corp Development & Investor Relations, as well as UAV's President commented the deal after inking the agreement: "Breakthrough Energy Ventures is the leading voice of investors who are supporting clean-energy technology creation. We share their view that we have to build companies who have real potential to change how industries operate and, in our case, that means investing in companies like Heart Aerospace who are developing a viable electric airliner."
The manager went on to say: "We recognize that customers want even more ownership of their own carbon emissions footprint. We're proud to partner with Mesa Air Group to bring electric aircraft to our customers earlier than any other U.S. airliner. Mesa's long serving CEO, Jonathan Ornstein has shown visionary leadership in the field of electric-powered flight."
In a release United emphasizes that the agreement paves the way for reaching the carrier’s goal to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 100% by 2050 without relying on traditional carbon offsets, as well as enabling the growth of Heart Aerospace and participating in the development of aircraft that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions from flying.
Clean and cost-effective aircraft
"Aviation is such a critical piece of our global economy. At the same time, it's a major source of carbon emissions and one of the most difficult sectors to decarbonize," said Carmichael Roberts, Breakthrough Energy Ventures. "We believe electric aircraft can be transformational in reducing the emissions of the industry, and enable low cost, quiet and clean regional travel on a broad scale. Heart's visionary team is developing an aircraft around its proprietary electric motor technology that will allow airlines to operate at a fraction of the cost of today and has the potential to change the way we fly."
Suitable for many routes
Heart's ES-19 aircraft are powered by electric motors instead of jet engines, using batteries instead of jet fuel resulting in zero greenhouse gas emissions while operating. Once built and technically approved by Washington’s FAA the ES-19 could operate on more than 100 of United's regional routes out of most of its hubs, states the airline. Some of these routes include Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD) to Purdue University Airport (LAF) and San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to Modesto City-County Airport (MOD).
"Electric aircraft are happening now—the technology is already here," said Anders Forslund CEO of Heart Aerospace. "We couldn't be prouder to be partnering with United, Mesa and BEV on taking our ES-19 aircraft to market. I can't imagine a stronger coalition of partners to advance our mission to electrify short-haul air travel."
Heart’s ES-19 is a door opener for replacing fossil fuel in aviation
However, the deal with Heart Aerospace is only the first step in the decarbonization of air transport, emphasizes Mr. Leskinen: “As battery technology improves, larger-gauge aircraft should become viable but we're not going to wait to begin the journey. That's why we're looking forward to beginning our work with Heart, so that, together, we can scale the availability of electric airliners and use them for passenger flights within the next five years."
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