Rolls-Royce embraces new mode of flying as push for green aviation heats up, says GlobalData

Following today’s news that Rolls-Royce and Tecnam have joined forces with Widerøe to deliver an all-electric passenger aircraft ready for service in 2026;

Harry Boneham, Associate Aerospace, Defense and Security Analyst at GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, offers his view:

“It is becoming increasingly clear that a green revolution in commercial aviation is coming, and firms that do not embrace this change are playing with fire. However, there is ambiguity within the industry over both the future form of the industry, and the most effective technological avenue to reach eco-targets.

“Some firms, such as Airbus, GE, and Honeywell are investing in improving efficiency and incorporating new technologies into the current narrow-body/wide-body system. Airbus is investing in hydrogen-based propulsion, while GE and Honeywell are teaming up with NASA to improve turbofan efficiency.

“However, this cooperative agreement with Tecnam and Widerøe signals that Rolls-Royce appreciates not only the growing regulatory and public pressure to reduce greenhouse emissions, but also recognizes the potential of all-electric aircraft to revolutionize the commercial aviation system.

“In the long term, all-electric aircraft is one of the most promising options for green aviation. According to GlobalData’s research using only all-electric aircraft for journeys under 600nm would reduce airport NOx emissions by 40% and reduce fuel use and direct CO2 emissions by 15%. In the long-term, future development allowing for journeys up to 1,200nm would reduce airport NOx emissions by 60%, reduce fuel use and direct CO2 emissions by 40%, and would account for 80% of all departures.

“However, given the state of contemporary battery technology, all-electric aircraft will not be able to compete in the conventional commercial aircraft market any time soon, certainly not by 2026. Instead, the opportunity for all-electric aircraft is to introduce a new sector in the industry comprised of small-capacity, sub-600nm range aircraft.

“In this emerging market the current limitations of battery technology, namely energy-density, are offset by the low-costs and convenience offered by short haul flights not bound by the current travel hub system. As with the emergence of all new industries, it serves players well to gain an early foothold.”

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