Sep 28, 2017
EasyJet to help develop a battery powered plane
UK budget airline partners with US designer Wright Electric
UK budget airline EasyJet has taken a step towards a future without jet fuel with plans to help develop a battery powered plane.
The group said on Wednesday that it had partnered with US aircraft designer Wright Electric to develop an electric aircraft for flights under two hours.
If the project works, it will cut emissions, noise and fuel consumption, Dame Carolyn McCall, EasyJet chief executive, said.
"For the first time in my career I can envisage a future without jet fuel and we are excited to be part of it," she said. "It is now more a matter of when, not if, a short-haul electric plane will fly."
The new, larger plane would have a range of 335 miles, the two companies said.
According to EasyJet this means it would be able to fly from London to Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Cologne, Glasgow or Edinburgh.
EasyJet said it is not committing cash to the partnership with Wright Electric. Instead it will provide advice and industry expertise that will allow the US company to develop a battery-propelled commercial airliner.
Wright Electric was founded in 2015 by US entrepreneur Jeffrey Engler and electric aircraft designer Chip Yates. It already has a prototype for a two-seater electric plane, which Mr Yates developed previously, and is working with several airlines including EasyJet to convert this into a 120-seat passenger plane. The other airline partners have not agreed for their names to be publicised.
Mr Engler told the Financial Times that their plan would be achieved within a decade.
He was unsure at this stage how much building the first plane would cost. Wright Electric has raised seed funding for the project but is not disclosing the amount.
Mr Engler added that the project was "daunting from every perspective".
EasyJet is publicising its electric plane partnership at the same time as rival low-cost airline Ryanair has been reeling from the fallout of being forced abruptly to cancel thousands of flights after it made pilot scheduling errors.
Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary has apologised to customers and offered a £40 travel voucher per flight cancelled.