New electric plane cleared for takeoff

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Norway is taking its electrification of the transport sector to new heights. The state agency in charge of Norwegian airports, Avinor, has teamed up with the country’s recreational aviators’ federation (Norges luftsportsforbund) to buy the country’s first electric plane, with a goal of offering electrified airline service by 2025.

Avinor and Norway’s federation for recreational aviators (Norges luftsportsforbund), have ordered the country’s first electric aircraft. The goal is to develop electrified airline service by 2025. PHOTO:: Avinor

“The arrival of el-fly (electric aircraft) will change the environmental consequences of the aviation industry considerably,” stated Avinor’s chief executive Dag Falk-Pedersen. “It can also become more reasonable to fly, when the operating costs of several aircraft types are considerably lower. That will be evident in ticket prices.”

As a first step towards making aviation more energy-efficient and modern, Avinor is buying a small two-seater aircraft called an Alpha Electro G2 from Slovenian aircraft manufacturer Pipistrel. It’s the first electric two-seater to be put into commercial production.

The Alpha Electro G2 can fly 130 kilometers and be in the air for an hour between rechargings. Avinor intends to use the aircraft as a test plane for demonstrations, and it’s due for landing in Norway next May.

State support
The “el-fly” project has support from Norway’s transport ministry and the environmental organization ZERO, which promotes zero emissions. Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) and Norway’s regional airline Widerøe are also backing the project, with an aim of testing electric aircraft and eventually putting them into passenger service.

All the players involved want Norway to be at the forefront of electrified air travel, just as Norway has been a pioneer and promoter of electric cars. Avinor officials believe the advent of electric aircraft will “open completely new opportunities” within aviation, with several international manufacturers “working intensely” to develop electric planes. Avinor claims there’s reason to believe that the first commercial routes using electric aircraft can be established by 2030, preferably with Norway as the launching grounds.

“We’re now seeing tremendous, positive development within environmentally friendly technology in the transport sector,” stated Norwegian Transport Minister Ketil Solvik-Olsen. “Electricity and batteries are changing maritime and road transport. The introduction of Norway’s first electric aircraft will demonstrate that this isn’t a vision far off in the future, but a reality within a few years.”

ZERO leader Marius Holm called the purchase of Norway’s first electric aircraft “a milestone” in the transport sector. “A barrier has been broken for what can be electrified,” Holm said. “Developments from here can go quickly,” he added, citing the rapid development of electric cars from Norway’s Th!nk cars to Teslas, in recent years.

Even though Norway remains a major and producer of oil and gas, Holm said the country “must continue to move forward in putting emission-free technology and greener solutions to use.” Falk-Petersen hopes to have a 19-seat electric aircraft in the air in Norway by 2025. He noted that electric aircraft can reduce noise by 40 percent and cut aircraft operating costs in half. He also stressed that electric aircraft can use shorter runways, which can be an advantage in a country like Norway that has many small airports. Berglund