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Green mogul to launch UK electric airline

By JONATHAN POWELL in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-07-18 09:30

A British green energy tycoon is in the process of setting up the United Kingdom's first electric airline, aiming to demonstrate the potential for carbon-intensive industries to adopt sustainable practices.

Positioned as the "flag-carrier for green Britain", Ecojet will begin operations next year, starting with a 19-passenger aircraft on a route between Edinburgh and Southampton.

The planes, capable of flying more than 480 kilometers, will initially rely on kerosene-based fuel before undergoing a transformation after the first year, when the aircraft will be retrofitted with engines that convert green hydrogen into electricity, The Guardian newspaper reported.

Entrepreneur Dale Vince, founder of the UK's first green energy company, Ecotricity, said he hopes to expand the number of Ecojet routes to cover all of the country's big cities.

The company said that in a second phase, 18 months later, 70-seater aircraft capable of flying to Europe would be introduced, with long-haul flights planned for the future.

Vince told The Guardian: "We want to prove that one of the last frontiers (of decarbonization) can be broken and that it's not insolvable.

"A lot of people seem to think that people who are eco-conscious want everyone to live a life of self-denial in a cave. Green living is not about giving things up — everything we like to have in this life can be done in a net zero life."

Staff on the green-striped branded airline will wear environmentally friendly uniforms, and serve plant-based meals.

Price of the flights have not been confirmed, but he told The Daily Mail newspaper Ecojet would "price match" with existing airfares. He said he has initially invested 1 million pounds ($ 1.3 million) into the company and plans to gather additional funding in the coming year.

Launching an airline is a lengthy process, and the carrier is currently seeking a license from the Civil Aviation Authority, and finalizing takeoff and landing positions at various airports, Vince said.

"I want to prove that it can be done and it's worthwhile," he said. "We do not think it will be loss-making. Our priority is to be in the air with this newfound ability to fly without a carbon footprint. This will complete the (low carbon] puzzle for us — the emotional impact will be big."

Vince acknowledged the initial use of fossil fuel in the project wasn't ideal, but that there was an urgency to launch the airline to secure planes and landing slots, and "keep up the momentum" of the project.

He said: "It does feel like a contradiction but at the heart of this project is upcycling existing planes and retrofitting them. 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."

The aviation industry is scrutinizing a variety of strategies to reduce carbon emissions, including the adoption of electric flights and sustainable aviation fuel, or SAF, a biofuel derived from agricultural produce. However, Vince dismissed SAF as a non-viable solution, citing the lack of available land required for crop growth to support it.

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