Entrepreneur Dale Vince plans to launch Ecojet, the world’s first all-electric airline, to decarbonize the aviation industry in the United Kingdom.
Ecojet is marketing itself as the “flag carrier for green Britain” and plans to launch commercial flights in early 2024. The initial route will transport passengers between Edinburgh (EDI) and Southampton (SOU) using a fleet of small 19-seat turboprop aircraft.
“Today we kickstarted a new revolution – with the launch of an electric airline,” Vince wrote on Twitter. “Yes, actual passenger-carrying planes powered by electricity.”
“Our electricity will be made from the wind and sun, green electricity powering emission-free flying. It’s a world-first and vital last step in the electrification of transport – enabling carbon-free living without compromise.”
The startup airline will initially use kerosene-based fuel for their first flights but will retrofit engines capable of converting hydrogen into electricity once approved by the CAA, with upgrades expected in 2025. According to Ecojet, converting existing planes into sustainable aircraft instead of creating new ones will help to save 90,000 tonnes of carbon per year.
“It does feel like a contradiction, but at the heart of this project is upcycling existing planes and retrofitting them,” Vince told The Guardian. “This is the pragmatic approach, which means we won’t lose time. We will build up the infrastructure, get the planes in the air and swap in the engines when they are available.”
In addition to the small 19-seat aircraft—which have a range of 300 miles (483km)—Ecojet will also have some 70-seater planes in its fleet capable of flying short-haul routes to Europe.
In an effort to improve their eco-friendliness, the airline will serve only plant-based meals to passengers, eliminate single-use plastics, and have cabin crew wear environmentally sustainable uniforms.
Dale Vince has experience running eco-conscious companies. The green energy tycoon is the founder and CEO of Ecotricity—a U.K.-based renewable energy supplier—and the chairman of ‘the world’s greenest football club,’ Forest Green Rovers. He is currently working on setting up Ecojet along with experienced pilot Brent Smith.
While Ecotricity may become the world’s first all-electric airline, Vince is not the only entrepreneur aiming to delve into the sustainable aviation market. Companies like ZeroAvia, Rolls-Royce, and Airbus are all exploring ways of using hydrogen to power electric flights, while many airlines worldwide are investing in sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), a biofuel derived from agricultural products.
However, Vince was critical of SAF as a viable solution to decarbonized air travel, claiming “there is nowhere is near enough land to grow the crops you’d need.”
Vince added: “The question of how to create sustainable air travel has plagued the green movement for decades, Ecojet is by far the most significant step towards a solution to date. The desire to travel is deeply etched into the human spirit, and flights free of CO2 emissions, powered by renewable energy, will allow us to explore our incredible world without harming it for the first time.”