EasyJet Unveils Plans for Battery-Powered Aircraft

The low-cost British airline easyJet is developing a battery-powered aircraft for short flights, like those from London to Paris, it announced on Wednesday.

In order to create electric engines that cut emissions, noise pollution, and costs, easyJet teamed up with the American start-up Wright Electric. According to Wright Electric, the battery-propelled planes could be half as noisy and 10 percent cheaper than those that require jet fuel, and could begin shuttling passengers on flights shorter than two hours within a decade.

EasyJet said its support for electric planes was part of a broader strategy to reduce carbon and nitrous oxide emissions in the aviation sector, following the lead taken by the rail and automotive industries. “For the first time, our industry can envisage a future which isn’t wholly reliant on jet fuel and its harmful CO2 and NOX emissions,” CEO Carolyn McCall said in a statement.

Wright Electric has been successful in implementing the technology in smaller, two-seater airplanes. Now, using its experience, and the partnership with a major airlines such as EasyJet, the company plans to make a real disruption in the commercial airline industry. And many investors are recognizing this fact. Indeed, Wright Electric has received financial backing from Harvard University and technology incubator Y Combinator (a firm responsible for the initial financing and growth of such companies as Airbnb and Dropbox).

EasyJet's chief commercial officer Peter Duffy says that the airline is moving with the times. "You are seeing cities and countries starting to talk about banning diesel combustion engines," he argues. "That would have been unthinkable just a short time ago. As technology moves on, attitudes shift, ambitions change and you see opportunities you didn't see. This is genuinely exciting."

Jeffrey Engler, Wright Electric's co-founder, said he wants to make flying "as clean and sustainable as possible".