It is not new information that flying is extremely bad for the environment, the emissions per passenger per mile being worse than most other forms of transportation. But despite knowing this, we keep flying.
This is no doubt that this is because flying can take us much further much faster than any other form of transportation we have today. A boat may be able to get you across the Atlantic, but by the time it arrives you could have flown there, had your holiday, and flown back again. What is left then, is a clash between modern day practicality and the environment, a choice that the environment is too often losing.
However, Norway may be emerging with a solution. A pollution-free, battery powered electric plane has taken flight in Oslo; the test flight lasting a few minutes. Piloted by Norwegian Transport Minister Ketil Solvik-Olsen with Dag Falk-Petersen, head of Avinor, the state-controlled company which runs the majority of the country’s airports, as a passenger. The plane landed back in Oslo airport safely after a successful, if short, demonstration flight.
Norway has then proven that, 100% electric, emissions free flight is possible. Solvik-Olsen stated that the use of electric planes “is not a far-off vision of the future, but a reality achievable within a few years.”
Unfortunately, the technology is not ready to go and still requires significant improvement before it becomes an entirely practical or viable solution for flight. Currently, the plane is tiny, seating only two people, tightly packed, with no belongings. Robert Harrabin, Environmental Analyst, stated: “Getting into this thing is a feat of human origami,” giving some insight into just how small the electric plane is, which obviously means it is not yet a viable alternative to the planes we currently use.
Also there is the issues of range and weight. Using batteries for power, means that the heavy weight of those batteries has to be accommodated, which further limits the plane’s range, leaving it currently only capable of very short flights. According to Pipistrel, the plane can fly for an hour with a range of up to 80 miles, neither of which makes it a feasible alternative to commercial flight, especially when looked at alongside its maximum human capacity of two.
Nevertheless, there is significant hope, especially after the plane’s successful demonstration flight, that these are issues that will be overcome in the near future. Norway is certainly optimistic as it plans to launch a commercial electric flight service within seven years.
Norway is currently aiming to have all of its short-haul flights run with electric planes by 2040, as well as switching their ferries over to electric power and subsidising electric cars. The country plans for no conventional cars to be sold in Norway after 2025, significantly sooner than the UK’s estimated 2040. The combination of all of this makes it seem as though Norway is blazing the trail in electric, environmentally friendly transport, and that it is up to everywhere else to catch up.
Electric cars, maglev trains, and now entirely electric planes are all environmentally friendly travel solutions that exist, some of which have been around for quite a while, so hopefully the coming years will start to see the environment beginning to win the battle with these environmentally friendly options finally becoming the dominant form of travel.