Short-haul electric aviation will dramatically impact the aviation industry as a whole, bringing more environmentally-friendly options to the market.
Electric aviation is a subset of the larger Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) market that includes fixed-wing and electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft serving a range of 50 to 500 miles. However, we believe that the traditional airport-to-airport will be the leading edge of development.
With today’s aircraft design and improved battery technology, short-haul aviation (400 miles or less) is a reality—not a dream. Last summer, a California-based firm successfully flew a retrofitted electric Cessna Caravan. The cost of the fuel for the maiden flight was $4.80 of battery charge compared to $400 in jet fuel cost. Several original equipment manufacturers have developed prototypes and are beginning the process of attaining Federal Aviation Administration certification. The expectation is that the U.S. fleet will include electric aircraft within the next three to five years.
Fixed-wing vs eVTOL
The new economics of electric aircraft are compelling. Direct operating costs of electric aircraft are estimated to be 80% less than conventional turboprop aircraft. Using today’s aviation and battery technology, short-haul electric aviation promises to reduce the cost passengers pay for air travel, per passenger mile, by between one-half to two-thirds.
The combination of new technology and changing lifestyle demographics can fundamentally transform the aviation industry in a way not seen since the beginning of the Jet Age. Electric aircraft, coupled with battery charging from renewable energy sources such as solar and wind, will dramatically decrease the carbon footprint for this class of flying.
In the near future, electric aviation will impact the aviation industry, fundamentally changing how we travel. Future sub-regional aviation will rely on electric aviation, creating a new market for passengers, especially those who work remotely in the post-COVID world.
How short-haul aviation will affect the wider market
An analysis of the U.S.’s potential market opportunity estimates a need for a fleet of 3,300 electric aircraft within the first 15 years. Since nine-seat air taxi aircraft do not need the same airport infrastructure as large commercial jets (e.g., shorter runway and no passenger security screening), electric aircraft can take off from regional airports and airstrips by tapping into the underutilized capacity of the U.S.’s 600 scheduled commercial service airports and over 6,000 general aviation airports. Passengers will still be able to access the national aviation system, acting either as feeders into medium and large hub airports or point-to-point services that bypass busy commercial airports.