Are eVTOLs a "climate saviour"?
Issue #27 of Sustainability in the Air Newsletter
Climate activist group Safe Landing (which claims to represent aviation workers looking for a more sustainable future), has released a blog post stating that eVTOLs are not a "climate saviour."
The crux of their argument can be summed up in these two paragraphs:
“However, it’s clear (in our minds) that decarbonisation isn’t solely about electrification (although this is important), but also about USING LESS ENERGY overall.”
So, they want fewer planes in the sky and fewer people flying. Most climate change groups always come back to this. This is why the industry needs to run messaging about how aviation benefits society in tandem with sustainability messaging.
Then Safe Landing says:
“We suspect the limited payload and range capabilities of eVTOL will confine them to very short trips only and they won’t contribute to effective decarbonisation of the major aviation markets. We also suspect they will rapidly discharge their batteries and cause a bit of a nightmare for battery life… which will again contribute to battery production emissions.”
Here there are a few points that can be made in response.
The aviation industry does not control the electricity grid, and yes it would clearly be better if the electricity from eVTOLs (and electric aircraft in general) came from renewable sources.
Indeed, we’ve seen it mooted that some airports and ‘vertiports’ may well have their own renewable energy source on site.
On the point of batteries, BETA Technologies is one company looking at using eVTOL batteries that have lost 8% of their capacity as the basis for electrical charging stations for electric cars. So there are some imaginative solutions around to extend battery life.
As far as distance goes, Joby Aviation has already covered 150 miles with its S4 model. That is significant in many areas of the world where a 100+ miles range could help bridge geographical barriers and / or a below-par road network.
One example of both those things is West Africa, where CNN recently ran a report about the booming private aviation industry.
eVTOLs could be a more sustainable replacement for private jet flights in countries like Senegal (featured in the segment) or Nigeria.
Would you pay extra for a 'green fare'?
Would you pay more to fly sustainably? The Lufthansa Group airlines are now offering a so-called ‘green fare’ as a booking option on flights from Denmark, Sweden and Norway.
This is being piloted as a six-month trial in one of the most climate-aware regions of the world.
The fare offsets the flight with a split of 20% SAF and 80% carbon offset projects (usually reforestation and renewable energy).
In exchange for paying the higher green fare, passengers receive a points premium and free cancellations and changes.
As we say in our blog post, this initiative touches on one of the key questions around offsetting - who is responsible, the airline or the passenger?
This comes as the normal uptake for voluntary offsets is at 1-3%. In a press release, Brussels Airlines highlighted the fact that it achieved 7% in May, but even this would mean that 93% of journeys are not being offset.
Airlines that automatically offset include JetBlue and easyJet, with easyJet having said in the past that it is the cost of doing business.
Air New Zealand on course for Flight N20 (Airline Ratings)
Malaysia Airlines partners with Kapten Batik for eco-friendly fashion collection (Moodie Davitt Report)