Environment 91 Stories

KLM and electric aviation

Published

26th Jun, 2019

Researchers are working hard on aircraft propelled by battery-powered electric motors that have zero carbon emissions. However, unfortunately this is still a bridge too far for commercial aviation. And it will continue to be so for some time to come. Although electric aircraft are not yet available due to the limitations of battery technology, promising initiatives are emerging around the world. KLM warmly welcomes these and would like to deploy electric aircraft.

KLM is closely following the developments in electric aviation. We are being advised on this by our knowledge partners, which include Delft University of Technology (TU Delft). TU Delft is analysing the feasibility of hybrid or alternative propulsion technologies and electric aircraft.

2050 – a distant horizon

It is commonly expected that electric alternatives will be available for commercial aircraft by around 2050. So, this will remain on the distant horizon for the years to come. That is why KLM is currently focusing on developing and using sustainable aviation fuel, such as bio-kerosene or synthetic fuel. These fuels create far less pollution and replace conventional fossil fuels.

The “Flying V”

KLM is also contributing to research by TU Delft into a new aircraft design, known as the “Flying V”. In this design, the passenger cabin, cargo deck and fuel tanks are integrated into the wing. The design has better aerodynamics and weighs less, meaning it should use 20% less fuel than the Airbus A350, which is currently the most modern aircraft. The current design of the Flying-V is still powered by kerosene but the aircraft can easily be adapted to innovations in the area of propulsion, such as electrically-assisted jet engines.

Large-scale deployment of sustainable kerosene

To realise our ambition of achieving lower carbon emissions in 2030 compared to 2005, KLM is investing heavily in a new sustainable kerosene plant in Delfzijl. This will be Europe’s first major plant for sustainable kerosene. It will make KLM the first airline in the world to invest in sustainable aircraft fuel on such a large scale. KLM will start purchasing sustainable kerosene from the plant in 2022. This kerosene will be derived from the waste produced by regional industries, such as old deep-frying fat. Food crops such as soya or palm oil will not be used to produce the fuel.

85% lower carbon emissions

The new sustainable fuel will reduce carbon emissions by 85% compared to conventional fossil fuel. The new plant will enable KLM to cut its carbon emissions by over 200,000 tons per year, or the equivalent of 1,000 flights from Amsterdam to Rio de Janeiro.

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