A US firm collaborating with easyJet to manufacture an electric airliner has started engine development for a 186-seater plane.
Wright Electric hopes to begin test flights using its motor in 2023, and is aiming for its first aircraft to enter commercial service in 2030.
It says its Wright 1 plane will be able to fly for around an hour, meaning it could be used on short-haul flights such as London to Paris or Amsterdam.
This is another crucial step for our partner Wright Electric to move towards the introduction of commercial electric aircraftJohan Lundgren, easyJet chief executive
The company’s chief executive Jeffrey Engler told the PA news agency: “As with anything in aerospace, it’s daunting, and we know we have lots of work ahead of us.
“At the same time, we believe in a future of low-emission aviation, and our team is working as hard as possible to get there.”
He added that electric planes would provide lower emissions, reduced fuel costs and lower noise levels for passengers and communities living under flight paths.
The aviation industry is under increasing pressure to reduce its CO2 emissions due to environmental concerns.
Conventional short-haul aircraft have a large jet engine underneath each wing, but electric planes would have several smaller motors.
EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren said: “This is another crucial step for our partner Wright Electric to move towards the introduction of commercial electric aircraft and it is exciting to see their ambitious timeline for testing and entry into service.
“Battery technology is advancing at pace with numerous US government agencies now funding research into electric aviation.
“All of these developments help us to more clearly see a future of more sustainable operations.
“We know it is important to our customers that we operate as sustainably as possible.
“Our carbon offsetting programme has been positively received by our customers and we have now offset more than nine million passenger journeys.
“But we are clear this is an interim solution until new technologies become available and we can see more clearly than ever a future that is not exclusively reliable on jet fuel.”
Wright Electric has also formed a partnership with British aerospace giant BAE Systems to accelerate the development of an electric plane.