EasyJet is today reported to be working with a US engineering start-up to develop a fully electric commercial aircraft within a decade.
Founded last year by a team of engineers and battery chemists, Wright Electric is setting its sights on designing an aircraft that can fly 335 miles.
That would cover 20% of the passengers easyJet flies today, the airline told Bloomberg ahead of its annual innovation day today at Gatwick showcasing technologies designed to make customer journeys easier and more sustainable in the future.
Wright Electric has worked with easyJet this year to scale up to commercial proportions since demonstrating that the technology works in a two-seater light aircraft.
EasyJet’s average flight time is under two hours, so it would not be as constrained as long-haul carriers by the limited range of a battery-powered aircraft.
Beyond saving on fuel costs, an electric aircraft also would cut emissions and noise, the airline said.
EasyJet chief executive Carolyn McCall said: “Just as we have seen with the automotive industry, the aviation industry will be looking to electric technology to reduce our impact on the environment.
“For the first time, we can envisage a future without jet fuel and we are excited to be part of it. It is now more a matter of when, not if, a short-haul electric plane will fly.”
EasyJet’s insights have been “invaluable,” Wright Electric chief executive Jeffrey Engler said.
The company has received financial backing from Massachusetts, Harvard University and technology incubator Y Combinator, which has played a role in the growth of companies including Airbnb and Dropbox.