United Airlines is investing in electric-powered aircraft

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United Airlines is eager for innovation. After giving an order 15 Overture Boom aircraft earlier this year, the company now invested in the design of an electric aircraft, Heart Aerospace. The Swedish company is developing the ES-19, an electrically powered aircraft. Thus, for regional air travel, there will be no more carbon emissions. Production should be completed in the next five years and the aircraft should start flying by 2026.

Heart Aerospace has partnered with United Airlines, Breakthrough Energy Ventures and Mesa Airlines to fund and develop ES-19, an innovative product that will eliminate operational emissions and reduce the aviation industry's carbon footprint.

Both United and Mesa have conditionally agreed to order 100 aircraft, as they comply with each company's safety, business and operating standards. The investment comes from United's dedicated sustainability fund, called United Airlines Ventures (UAV), which focuses on innovative technologies that reduce carbon emissions, while improving the customer experience and revolutionizing the way the industry operates.

United Airlines invests in electric-powered aircraft.

According to Heart Aerospace, the 19-seat plane will be powered by four electric motors and batteries instead of jet engines and conventional fuel. It is expected to fly up to 250 miles, with a maximum speed of 215 knots and a cruising speed of 180 knots. While these low speeds can be a concern, the aircraft can fly on less crowded routes with runways of up to 750 meters, shortening travel time.

Once operational, the ES-19 could serve over 100 United regional routes to and from its hubs. Last month, the carrier announced it would withdraw about 200 regional aircraft that no longer fit into its "United Next" project. It is possible that the new aircraft will fly short-haul routes to the Midwest, where most of the airline's current regional aircraft operate. Potential routes include Chicago O'Hare International Airport to Purdue University Airport and San Francisco International Airport to Modesto City-County Airport.

In 2019, aviation accounted for about 2.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions. While this has fallen in 2020 due to the pandemic, experts are worried that the resumption of travel will cause a return to emissions. The demand for air transport has surpassed sustainable technology, and the solution for reducing carbon emissions is underdeveloped. However, United and many airlines around the world understand the negative environmental impact of aircraft fuel and dozens of companies are committed to eliminating carbon emissions by 2050.

BEV and UAV are the first investors to contribute to Heart Aerospace. The agreements are expected to accelerate the development of the ES-19 and put it into operation as early as 2026.

United's investment in ES-19 is part of the company's effort to reach its net-zero target in 2050. It plans to do so without offsetting carbon, which is the industry's main method of reducing emissions. However, these schemes do not always have the desired impact, hence United's decision to avoid them.

Instead, the company focuses on innovation through the efficiency of aircraft and biofuels. For example, the Overture supersonic jet is expected to run 100% on sustainable aviation fuel (VAS) from day one. United has committed to buy 200 take-off and landing aircraft from Archer earlier this year.

The airline also invests in companies such as Heart Aerospace, which want to create products that are good for customers, employees and the planet. While the introduction of the ES-19 is a few years away, United hopes to lead the industry into a new era of sustainable air travel.

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