As the industry speeds up its efforts to reach net zero by 2050, a number of new airlines are preparing for launch with a novel selling point: They intend to have no carbon emissions whatsoever.
They intend to do this, by flying aircraft powered by batteries, or hydrogen electric powertrains. Three of the most prominent examples are LUCY and EVIA AERO in Europe as well as Connect Airlines in North America. We’ll have a look at each of them in turn.
With investment from Air France / KLM owned Transavia, LUCY aims to offer ‘zero emission regional travel.’ At the moment, LUCY appears to be at a very early stage, with few public details about its routes or aircraft.
However, in an interview last year, founder Teun Kraaij talked about starting flights from Eindhoven Airport in the Netherlands from 2025, using smaller five seat aircraft. 2025 is in fact the first year we are likely to see electric air taxis or eVTOLs from Archer, Joby and Germany’s Volocopter enter service. The first eVTOLs will have 4-5 passengers.
EVIA AERO is a little further down the road than LUCY. It plans to operate zero emissions flights from Bremen, in North West Germany.
We also already know about the kinds of aircraft the company intends to fly, with the airline having placed orders for the regional / commuter version of the nine seat all-electric Eviation ‘Alice.’ The Alice had its first successful test flight in 2022, and Eviation plans to have it certified by 2027.
EVIA AERO is also working with Cranfield Aerospace for hydrogen electric conversion kits for small (19 seat and under) regional aircraft.
Finally, another clue in the kinds of aircraft EVIA AERO intends to fly comes from CEO Florian Kruse’s recent visit to Heart Aerospace’s facility in Gothenburg, Sweden. Heart is developing a 30 seat hybrid-electric regional aircraft called the ES-30. This is scheduled to be in commercial service by 2030 and will serve routes of under 400 km.
EVIA AERO’s advisory board is chaired by Alex Trampnau, who was formerly CEO at German leisure airline, GERMANIA.
Furthest along in terms of launch plans is Connect Airlines, which intends to serve major airports in the North East of the United States and Canada.
Connect’s strategy is to retrofit existing regional aircraft, in particular ATR-72 600 regional turboprops, with hydrogen electric powertrains being developed by Universal Hydrogen.
With one of its investors being JetBlue Ventures, Universal Hydrogen carried out a successful test flight of a hydrogen powered ATR-72 aircraft in March. At the time, this was the largest hydrogen electric aircraft ever to take to the skies.
Commenting on the announcement, Connect Airlines CEO John Thomas talked about his airline being Universal Hydrogen’s first US customer:
“We have committed to being North America’s first zero-emission airline and this historic flight, taking hydrogen, which can be made with nothing but sunshine and emitting only water, is a key milestone on our journey.”
Universal Hydrogen has committed to converting 75 regional aircraft for Connect Airlines with purchase rights for 25 additional aircraft conversions. Deliveries will start in 2025.
In John Thomas, Connect benefits from having an industry veteran at the helm. While he was at Virgin Australia, he launched the airline’s hugely successful Economy X product and onboard Wi-Fi. Thomas also serves on the board of Icelandair.
John Thomas was a speaker at last year’s APEX/IFSA EXPO, where we interviewed him about his plans and vision, you can read more here.