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Switching to battery and hydrogen powered planes for travel within the European Union by 2040 would reduce the climate impact of flying by 59 percent, states a recent report by the international accounting and consultancy firm Deloitte.

The report titled ‘Europe’s future aviation landscape’ takes aim at intra-EU travel and contends that a shift to battery and hydrogen powered aviation is crucial in order to meet the EU’s goal of being climate neutral by 2050.

Battery and hydrogen planes could be introduced as alternatives to kerosene for travel within the European Union as early as 2035. Under current conditions, it would take decades to overhaul entire fleets of planes. The report, thus, recommends that if we want to find scalable and innovative ways to make this a reality, the EU needs to think ahead.  

“Step-by-step improvements to existing systems to make the aviation sector cleaner are not enough to achieve the EU’s decarbonization ambitions within a reasonable timeframe,” says Willem Christiaan van Manen, Future of Mobility lead at Deloitte. “Hydrogen and batteries currently seem to be the most promising solutions for short-haul flights within Europe, our research shows.”

Plan feasibility

Proposed battery powered planes run on zero emissions, though their range is up to 500 kilometers. Planes running on pure hydrogen and planes that are hybrids between hydrogen and combustion have a low climate impact and can fly further – 1000 kilometer and 2000 kilometers, respectively. However, these ranges are enough to absorb 89 percent of all intra-EU passengers, according to the report.

This would not be for free – subsidies are needed to make the change. As old systems are overhauled for the green alternatives, passengers, at least in the short-term, would also need to pay extra and contend with slightly longer flight times.

A concerted effort by policymakers is also needed to make these changes in time. As the fight industry has all but shut down in the pandemic, the report recommends taking action now – before mass-travel resumes and airlines become too busy.  

Read about how flying cars and high-speed hyperloops could also change how we travel.