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#Sustainability20: Paris to New York In 1.5 Hours In Destinus’s Hypersonic Hydrogen Jet & Other Stories In Aviation
Weekly Roundup - 07/07/23
Each Friday, we publish a round-up of the most important stories on sustainable aviation. You can see previous editions of #Sustainability20 here.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is set to launch the World Sustainability Symposium in Madrid on 3-4 October. The event will facilitate discussions on achieving net zero emissions in aviation by 2050, focusing on strategies, the role of government, sustainability measures, financing, emissions tracking, non-CO2 emissions, and value chains.
The Airports of Tomorrow initiative, involving 52 organisations including Airbus, Boeing, and London Heathrow, aims to transform airports into clean energy hubs by utilising sustainable aviation fuels, electric flights, and airport operations electrification. The initiative seeks to mobilise approximately $175bn annually for investments in emerging technologies and alternative propulsion for net-zero emissions in aviation.
IATA has introduced the Net Zero Tracking Methodology to annually report the aviation industry's decarbonisation efforts. The methodology focuses on standardisation, accuracy, and comprehensiveness. The first report, aggregating data from airlines, is due in Q4 2024.
Alaska Airlines has released its 2022 sustainability report, highlighting its commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and transitioning to net-zero emissions by 2040. Despite facing challenges in adopting greener technologies and SAF, the airline has been testing various technologies. Additionally, it focuses on workforce empowerment and has increased representation in its leadership. The airline has also partnered with ZeroAvia for electric aircraft technologies but acknowledges uncertainties regarding the technologies' impact on their net-zero goal.
To learn more about Alaska’s net zero plans, read our interview with Diana Birkett Rakow, Senior Vice President, Public Affairs & Sustainability at Alaska Airlines.
The UK's Climate Change Committee (CCC) recommends halting airport expansions until a capacity-management framework assessing emissions is established. The CCC criticises the UK’s Jet Zero strategy, which relies on developing technologies like SAF, for being risky. While the aviation industry opposes the CCC’s recommendation, claiming it would damage the economy, the CCC emphasises demand management as the most effective way to reduce emissions.
Infrastructure and operational efficiencies
Airbus inaugurated its Wing Technology Development Centre (WTDC) in Filton, UK, where it will design and test next-generation wings. Through its Wing of Tomorrow program, Airbus aims to create longer, leaner, and lighter wings to improve fuel efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions as part of the aviation industry's goal to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
To learn more about Airbus’s net zero plans, listen to our episode with Amanda Simpson, Vice President for Research & Technology (Americas) at Airbus.
Ferrovial has just sealed an alliance with British firm Milligan to develop its first vertiports in the country. Ferrovial and Milligan have joined forces to identify and develop sites for urban mobility operations in the UK. Both companies will work alongside US engineering giant Aecom and UK engineering giant Lichfields, who are acting as planning consultants.
Starting 2024, Lufthansa will equip all new Airbus A320neo and A321neo aircraft with automated flight profile transmission technology, which communicates real-time flight path data to ground-based operations and air traffic control. This technology, called ADS-C EPP, enables more efficient airspace management, optimising routing, saving fuel, and reducing CO2 emissions, in line with Lufthansa's sustainability goals.
Flughafen Zürich AG, operator of Zurich Airport, is focusing on sustainability through reducing emissions, promoting renewable energy, and embracing e-mobility. It aims for net-zero emissions by 2040 and emphasises climate protection, energy efficiency, circular economy, and biodiversity. Additionally, it's involved in regional contribution, noise reduction, safety, and ethical business conduct.
Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF)
Neste and Victor, leaders in SAF and private jet services respectively, encourage commercial airlines to adopt SAF to cut carbon emissions. Through their partnership, 30% of fossil fuels are voluntarily replaced by SAF, reducing greenhouse gas emissions. They propose a 'Pay Here, Use There' blueprint for immediate environmental impact through consumer engagement and investment in SAF.
Topsoe A/S is leading the FrontFuel project to produce SAF using CO2, water, and renewable electricity. Funded by a 26.9 million DKK grant, it collaborates with Sasol and Aarhus University to create synthetic crude for SAF through innovative technologies, aiming to decarbonise aviation and facilitate the industry's green transition.
Korean Air and GS Caltex have partnered to conduct test flights using SAF to help establish SAF quality standards. The results will be used by the Korean government to expedite commercialisation and support their eco-friendly biofuels initiative. The tests commence in the second half of 2023.
Researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln are genetically modifying sorghum plants to produce more oil for biofuels, aiming to create sustainable aviation fuel. This innovation could support the rural bioeconomy and create jobs, though requires infrastructure and regulatory support.
Australia's Renewable Energy Agency (Arena) has committed AU$30 million to support the development of SAF from renewable biomass. The initiative offers grants for engineering feasibility studies, project development activities, and the creation of pilot scale and pre-commercial production facilities.
New technology: Electric and Hydrogen
Swiss start-up Destinus is developing a hydrogen-powered hypersonic jet that can travel five times the speed of sound, reducing international flight times significantly. Supported by a €12 million investment from the Spanish government, the jet aims to make zero-emission, hypersonic travel a reality.
Joby Aviation unveiled its first electric air taxi prototype, assembled in Marina, California, with FAA approval for flight tests. Toyota, a major investor and manufacturing partner, assisted in the production line development. Joby aims to be FAA-certified by 2024 and launch its air taxi service in the U.S. by 2025.
To learn more about Joby, listen to our episode with Bonny Simi, Joby Aviation’s Head of Air Operations and People.
Volocopter and Safran Electrical & Power announced a collaboration to develop an electric powertrain for eVTOL aircraft. The partnership will explore engineering and commercial opportunities in electrical propulsion systems, battery units, and power distribution for sustainable urban air mobility.
During the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, Volocopter plans to operate its eVTOL aircraft for public transportation between five vertiports, subject to obtaining EASA approval. AutoFlight will also conduct flight demonstrations with its Prosperity I eVTOL. The initiative aims to showcase the potential of Urban Air Mobility.
Nordic Electrofuel and P2X-Europe have signed an agreement for the production and supply of sustainable aviation fuels using wind power from Nordic Wind. The agreement aims at producing carbon-neutral eFuel from green hydrogen and captured CO2, targeting synthetic aviation fuel and heavy-duty road transport fuel. Initial production will be in Norway, with plans to scale up to 800,000 tonnes within a decade.
GAC Group unveiled Gove, an eVTOL with a unique design comprising two separate vehicles that can operate together or independently in air and on land. The upper half is an eVTOL, while the lower half is an autonomous electric vehicle. Gove integrates GAC's autonomous ADiGO-Pilot system and a dual backup multi-rotor flight system. The Chinese automaker aims for this innovation to be part of future mobility solutions.
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