Airbus and SAS to Study Hybrid Aircraft For Commercial Flights

Joint research project could help determine how to integrate hybrid flight into airline operations.

Airbus and SAS Scandinavian Airlines are collaborating to discover if hybrid electric aircraft would be viable for commercial air service.

Planemakers and airlines alike are facing public and government pressure to reduce their environmental impact—think about the Green New Deal proposal in the U.S. Some governments have started exploring taxation measures to tackle emissions, such as Canada and SAS’ home country Sweden. Air traffic activity is expected to double over the next 20 years, and though plane fuel efficiency has vastly improved over the decades, that growth in demand will put more pressure on the environment.

The two companies are pooling their research capabilities to determine what a large-scale commercial hybrid and electric aircraft system would look like: everything from manufacturing to operations to infrastructure. They also plan on enlisting a renewable energy supplier to help in their work.

“We are proud of our ambitious sustainability work and are now pleased that Airbus has chosen SAS to partner up with us for this future project. If this becomes a reality, it will revolutionize emissions,” said Rickard Gustafson, Chief Executive Officer of SAS.

Electric Aircraft—the future of aviation?

Reducing environmental impact is a priority for the aviation industry. Next year the IATA will implement CORSIA, the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation, which commits airlines to achieving carbon-neutral growth as of 2020 and reducing net emissions from aviation activities by 50 per cent by 2050.

Airbus and SAS have lofty ambitions for their new partnership—but it will be reliant on advances in batteries, engine efficiency and aircraft charging infrastructure.

SAS is already an industry leader in emissions reduction, having made a commitment to buy biofuels for its fleet and advocating for an increase in supply. The airline has also promised to reduce its CO2 emissions by 25 per cent by 2030.

“SAS takes ambitious steps to reduce the negative impact from aviation through innovation, smart solutions and major investments in the latest technology, without compromising the important role of the aircraft in our society—enabling people to meet and contribute to value creation and growth,” said Gustafson.

The research project launches this month and will continue through the end of 2020. That may not seem like a lot of time for a project of this scope, but industry analysts hope it will be an important step forward in greening the aviation industry.

Read more about efforts to make aviation more environmentally friendly at Derwent Aviation Redesigns Aircraft Engines to Reduce Emissions.