Written by Emma Rasmussen
DENVER – Last Friday in Denver, Colorado, ten aerospace and technology startups showcased their futuristic plans to change the industry at Starburst Aerospace Accelerator’s most recent event. The host of the startups included Los Angeles-based Wright Electric, which wants to combat global warming with battery-powered airliners.
Although the startup was just founded in 2016 and is in the early stages of growth, the company is working on completing a sub-scale retrofit demonstrator to further its research on battery-powered aircraft.
Wright Electric’s team formerly had ties with NASA regarding research on electric aircraft, which founder Jeff Engler claims has given the company an edge. Despite the young company only recently entering the industry, Wright Electric has gained traction and is in the process of raising capital.
Wright Electric gave a presentation on its electric narrow-body micro haul aircraft, which will serve routes under 300 miles. The electric airliner is intended to carry 150 passengers between cities such as London and Paris, or Seoul and Jeju.
According to Wright, short-haul trips comprise of up to 30% of all flights. Questioning if there is a market for such an aircraft? There is a $26 billion market for short-haul flights.
The company projects up to 50% lower fuel costs and 20% lower engine maintenance costs. Additionally, the aircraft will have virtually no (or fewer) emissions in comparison to today’s jet fuel-powered airliners.
With the airlines racing to reduce fuel and maintenance costs, electric airliners could become a reality within the next decade. If Wright Electric’s airliner delivers reduced fuel and maintenance costs, it is highly probable that the aircraft could break the 737/A320 duopoly on routes between cities.
British budget carrier EasyJet, which mostly flies short-haul routes between European cities, has partnered with the Y Combinator-funded startup. “EasyJet is looking at future technology which could further reduce carbon emissions or fundamentally change the way we fly” said EasyJet in a press statement.
While the concept has the potential to reduce costs and serve short-haul airlines such as EasyJet, batteries for aircraft will have to improve greatly before electric airliners can be powered solely on electric power supply. Whether or not Wright Electric will opt for a hybrid aircraft, or explore all-battery options remains to be seen.