Dale Vince, the owner of green energy firm Ecotricity, has announced plans to launch the UK’s first electric airline.
The Gloucestershire business man, who also owns League Two football club Forest Green Rovers, told The Guardian that takeoff for the sustainable carrier, called Ecoject, was scheduled for early next year.
Today we kickstarted a new revolution – with the launch of an electric airline. Yes, actual passenger carrying planes powered by electricity.
Our electricity will be made from the wind and sun, green electricity powering emission-free flying. It’s a world-first and vital last… pic.twitter.com/GMsuD9NCrE
— Dale Vince (@DaleVince)
According to the report, Ecojet will first fly a kerosene-powered 19-seater plane on a route between Edinburgh and Southampton, before later re-fitting the aircraft with engines capable of converting hydrogen into electricity.
Mr Vince said the airline’s planes would be capable of flying 300 miles, and he hoped the airline’s network of flight routes could be extended to cover all of the UK’s major cities. Ecojet’s staff will wear environmentally friendly uniforms, and serve vegan meals.
The project’s second phase, planned for 18 months after the first flight, will look to develop 70-seater planes capable of flying to Europe. Ecotricity said it was currently in the process of applying for a licence from the Civil Aviation Authority and securing takeoff and landing slots at airports.
Alongside an image detailing how Ecojet’s green and white striped planes could look, Mr Vince posted on social media: “Today we kickstarted a new revolution – with the launch of an electric airline. Yes, actual passenger carrying planes powered by electricity.
“Our electricity will be made from the wind and sun, green electricity powering emission-free flying. It’s a world-first and vital last step in the electrification of transport – enabling carbon-free living without compromise. It doesn’t get much better than that.”
Mr Vince told The Guardian the airline had to be launched with planes that burn fossil fuels in order to “keep up the momentum of the project” by quickly securing planes and landing slots.
Mr Vince said: “It does feel like a contradiction but at the heart of this project is upcycling existing planes and retrofitting them. This is the pragmatic approach, which means we won’t lose time. We will build up the infrastructure, get the planes in the air and swap in the engines when they are available.”
Stroud-based Ecotricity has become the latest company in the South West to enter the electric flight space. In 2021 Rolls-Royce’s battery powered plane, the ‘Spirit of Innovation’, broke the fastest all-electric flight world record when it took off from the Ministry of Defence’s Boscombe Down site in Wiltshire.
Meanwhile a consortium involving Bristol aerospace firm Vertical Aerospace, which is developing an electric vertical take-off and landing ‘flying taxi’, announced last year that two test flights of the zero-emission aircraft were planned between Bristol Airport and a South West airfield for 2024.
Mr Vince’s other venture Forest Green Rovers have previously been recognised by footballs’ governing body FIFA and the United Nations for its environmentally-conscious practices, which include a vegan match day menu, and the use of technology that converts away fans’ urine into water and fertiliser for the pitch at its ground The New Lawn.
Rovers recently finished top of a table which ranks the 72 EFL clubs based on how sustainable their operations and policies are. Work began earlier this year on the team’s new stadium, which will be built almost entirely out of wood, and form part of a wider multi-purpose site just off Junction 13 of the M5 near Stonehouse, known as Eco Park.
Like this story? Why not sign up to get the latest South West business news straight to your inbox.