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#Sustainability20: Joby Receives Permit To Fly First-Ever eVTOL & Other Stories In Aviation
Weekly Roundup - 30/06/23
Each Friday, we publish a round-up of the most important stories on sustainable aviation. You can see previous editions of #Sustainability20 here.
The Airports Council International (ACI) World and the World Economic Forum launched the Airports of Tomorrow initiative on June 27, 2023, to accelerate the aviation industry's decarbonisation. The initiative focuses on four pillars: Infrastructure, Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), Finance, and Innovation. It aims to transform airports into energy hubs through collaboration with stakeholders, sharing expertise, and developing tools and guidance for achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
To learn more about ACI World’s sustainability play, listen to our podcast episode with Director General Luis Felipe de Oliveira.
AirAsia hosted its inaugural Sustainability Day, focusing on pathways to decarbonisation and the incorporation of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) practices. Discussions included upgrading to fuel-efficient aircraft, implementing green operating procedures, and exploring SAF. AirAsia aims for net-zero emissions by 2050 and highlighted its plans to incorporate ESG considerations into fleet deployment.
Infrastructure and operational efficiencies
The evoBOT, an autonomous vehicle developed by Fraunhofer Institute, completed its first practical trials at Munich Airport. Featuring two wheels and gripper arms, evoBOT can balance itself and navigate different surfaces, even slopes. It can handle various tasks, including hazardous goods handling and aircraft loading, with a load capacity of 100kg and speeds up to 60 km/h. The robot's adaptability and low carbon footprint make it versatile for indoor and outdoor operations.
London City Airport (LCY) published its 2022 Sustainability Report, highlighting progress in reducing carbon emissions, achieving level 4+ in Airport Carbon Accreditation, improving public transport connectivity, supporting clean aircraft technology, and contributing to the local community through a Biodiversity Fund, local recruitment, education programs, and employee volunteering. The airport has made significant strides in sustainability, with 25% of its roadmap commitments completed.
European policies favour trains over planes for short distances. However, alliances are forming to develop electric or hydrogen-powered flights as alternatives. Notably, Hamburg and Rotterdam airports are collaborating for potential hydrogen-powered air service by 2026. Groupe ADP is also partnering to hasten electric and hydrogen aircraft at Paris airports. These initiatives challenge traditional aircraft companies and represent a shift toward more sustainable aviation.
Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF)
Airbus and LanzaJet have signed a memorandum of understanding to produce SAF using LanzaJet’s Alcohol-to-Jet technology. This aims to accelerate the certification of 100% SAF for existing aircraft, reducing aviation emissions.
Bank of America has joined American Express Global Business Travel (Amex GBT) and Shell Aviation's SAF program. This blockchain-powered program connects airlines with businesses to scale SAF supply and demand, aiming to decarbonise air travel.
To learn more, listen to our podcast episode with Nora Lovell Marchant, Vice President of Global Sustainability at Amex GBT.
Finnish biofuel producer Neste expanded its Singapore refinery, boosting its SAF production capacity to 1.26 billion litres annually. The refinery processes used cooking oil and waste animal fat to produce SAF, which emits up to 80% less carbon dioxide than standard jet fuel.
Virgin Australia and The Boeing Group have partnered to push for the development of a SAF industry in Australia. Through a memorandum of understanding, they aim to influence government policy on SAF, promote inclusion in aviation, advance Australia-US climate goals, and develop carbon offsetting within the sector.
Manitoba, Canada plans to construct a CA$1.9 billion SAF facility powered by hydroelectric energy, utilizing local crops. The Canadian provincial and federal governments will invest CA$2.9 million in a preliminary engineering study. The facility, expected to be operational by 2028, will produce one billion liters of SAF annually, create 1,500 construction and 150 permanent jobs, and contribute over CA$500 million to the local economy while reducing carbon emissions.
New technology: Electric and Hydrogen
Joby Aviation, in partnership with Toyota, has produced its first electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft prototype at its pilot production plant in California. The prototype received an airworthiness certificate from the FAA and puts Joby closer to commercialisation. Joby aims to deliver its first eVTOL to a customer by 2024 and launch an air taxi service by 2025.
Lilium received the FAA G-1 Certification Basis for its eVTOL jet, making it the only eVTOL manufacturer with both EASA and FAA certification basis. This marks a significant step towards global acceptance for Lilium’s eVTOL aircraft ahead of its planned international operations in late 2025. The company also secured an order for 100 eVTOL aircraft.
NASA has cancelled the flight of its experimental electric aircraft, X-57, due to safety concerns and time constraints. The propulsion system posed risks to pilot and ground personnel safety. Despite resolving previous challenges, a potential failure mode in the motors under flight loads could not be mitigated within the project’s timeline and budget. NASA emphasised the project's contributions to the industry through technical papers.
AutoFlight holds the record for the longest eVTOL flight. It signed an MOU with Groupe ADP to conduct experimental flights at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games using its Prosperity I eVTOL. The aircraft has a range of 155 miles and features an eco-friendly design, aiming to showcase advanced air mobility potentials. AutoFlight seeks certifications from Chinese and international authorities.
SkyDrive, a Tokyo-based company, revealed changes to its eVTOL air taxi at the Paris Air Show, including an additional passenger seat and a per-charge range increase to 15 km (9.3 miles). The company plans to start production in early 2024, aiming for airworthiness certification by World Expo 2025, and eventually autonomous operation by 2031.
Eve Air Mobility, part of Brazilian Embraer, announced potential orders for 150 eVTOL air taxis. Nordic Aviation ordered 15 with an option for 15 more. Widerøe Zero might order 50 and Voar Aviation 70, bringing Eve's potential orders to 2,770 units. The deal with Widerøe includes comprehensive services and collaboration on Norway’s Air Mobility Labs project.
Airbus, in collaboration with ArianeGroup, is developing hydrogen-fueled jet airliners with a focus on creating a complete hydrogen propulsion system and a hydrogen Auxiliary Power Unit (APU). Through the HyPERION project, they aim for practical hydrogen commercial airliners by 2035, using cryogenic storage and converting liquid hydrogen to gas for optimal engine performance. Airbus also plans a HyPower demonstrator by 2025 to replace the conventional APU with a hydrogen fuel cell.
To learn more about Airbus’s hydrogen ambitions, listen to our podcast episode with Amanda Simpson, Vice President for Research & Technology (Americas) at Airbus.
French startup Beyond Aerospace is developing a hydrogen fuel-cell-powered business jet, the BYA-1, with an 800-nautical-mile range and 310 knots speed. The company intends to certify the 4-8 seat jet by 2030, using a fuel-cell system to power electric fans. The aircraft features pressurised hydrogen tanks beneath the cabin and a unique cooling system for fuel cells. Beyond Aerospace has raised €10 million for development.
At the Paris Air Show, ZeroAvia, a hydrogen-powered aviation startup, announced the expansion of its R&D facility with a $350,000 grant from Washington state. Meanwhile, sustainable aviation fuel startup Twelve is building a commercial-scale production facility in Eastern Washington, producing synthetic jet fuel from water and carbon dioxide using renewable energy.
Australia’s Dovetail Electric Aviation focuses on hydrogen-electric retrofitting for existing aircraft, aiming to lower emissions, reduce costs, and enhance sustainability.
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