Get set for take-off in electric aircraft, the next transport disruption


Jake Whitehead, The University of Queensland and Michael Kane, Curtin University

Move aside electric cars, another disruption set to occur in the next decade is being ignored in current Australian transport infrastructure debates: electric aviation. Electric aircraft technology is rapidly developing locally and overseas, with the aim of potentially reducing emissions and operating costs by over 75%. Other countries are already planning for 100% electric short-haul plane fleets within a couple of decades.

Australia relies heavily on air transport. The country has the most domestic airline seats per person in the world. We have also witnessed flight passenger numbers double over the past 20 years.

Infrastructure projects are typically planned 20 or more years ahead. This makes it more important than ever that we start to adopt a disruptive lens in planning. It’s time to start accounting for electric aviation if we are to capitalise on its potential economic and environmental benefits.




Read more:
Why aren’t there electric airplanes yet?


What can these aircraft do?

There are two main types of electric aircraft: short-haul planes and vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) vehicles, including drones.

The key issue affecting the uptake of electric aircraft is the need to ensure enough battery energy density to support commercial flights. While some major impediments are still to be overcome, we are likely to see short-haul electric flights locally before 2030. Small, two-to-four-seat, electric planes are already flying in Australia today.

An electric plane service has been launched in Perth.

A scan of global electric aircraft development suggests rapid advancements are likely over the coming decade. By 2022, nine-seat planes could be doing short-haul (500-1,000km) flights. Before 2030, small-to-medium 150-seat planes could be flying up to 500 kilometres. Short-range (100250 km) VTOL aircraft could also become viable in the 2020s.

If these breakthroughs occur, we could see small, commercial, electric aircraft operating on some of Australia’s busiest air routes, including Sydney-Melbourne or Brisbane, as well as opening up new, cost-effective travel routes to and from regional Australia.

Possible short-haul electric aircraft ranges of 500km and 1,000km around Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.
Author provided

Why go electric?

In addition to new export opportunities, as shown by MagniX, electric aviation could greatly reduce the financial and environmental costs of air transport in Australia.

Two major components of current airline costs
are fuel (27%) and maintenance (11%). Electric aircraft could deliver significant price reductions through reduced energy and maintenance costs.

Short-haul electric aircraft are particularly compelling given the inherent energy efficiency, simplicity and longevity of the battery-powered motor and drivetrain. No alternative fuel sources can deliver the same level of savings.

With conventional planes, a high-passenger, high-frequency model comes with a limiting environmental cost of burning fuel. Smaller electric aircraft can avoid the fuel costs and emissions resulting from high-frequency service models. This can lead to increased competition between airlines and between airports, further lowering costs.




Read more:
Don’t trust the environmental hype about electric vehicles? The economic benefits might convince you


What are the implications of this disruption?

Air transport is generally organised in combinations of hub-and-spoke or point-to-point models. Smaller, more energy-efficient planes encourage point-to-point flights, which can also be the spokes on long-haul hub models. This means electric aircraft could lead to higher-frequency services, enabling more competitive point-to-point flights, and increase the dispersion of air services to smaller airports.

While benefiting smaller airports, electric aircraft could also improve the efficiency of some larger constrained airports.

For example, Australia’s largest airport, Sydney Airport, is efficient in both operations and costs. However, due to noise and pollution, physical and regulatory constraints – mainly aircraft movement caps and a curfew – can lead to congestion. With a significant number of sub-1,000km flights originating from Sydney, low-noise, zero-emission, electric aircraft could overcome some of these constraints, increasing airport efficiency and lowering costs.

The increased availability of short-haul, affordable air travel could actively compete with other transport services, including high-speed rail (HSR). Alternatively, if the planning of HSR projects takes account of electric aviation, these services could improve connectivity at regional rail hubs. This could strengthen the business cases for HSR projects by reducing the number of stops and travel times, and increasing overall network coverage.

Synchronised air and rail services could improve connections for travellers.
Chuyuss/Shutterstock

What about air freight?

Electric aircraft could also help air freight. International air freight volumes have increased by 80% in the last 20 years. Electric aircraft provide an opportunity to efficiently transport high-value products to key regional transport hubs, as well as directly to consumers via VTOL vehicles or drones.

If properly planned, electric aviation could complement existing freight services, including road, sea and air services. This would reduce the overall cost of transporting high-value goods.

Plan now for the coming disruption

Electric aircraft could significantly disrupt short-haul air transport within the next decade. How quickly will this technology affect conventional infrastructure? It is difficult to say given the many unknown factors. The uncertainties include step-change technologies, such as solid-state batteries, that could radically
accelerate the uptake and capabilities of electric aircraft.

What we do know today is that Australia is already struggling with disruptive technological changes in energy, telecommunications and even other transport segments. These challenges highlight the need to start taking account of disruptive technology when planning infrastructure. Where we see billions of dollars being invested in technological transformation, we need to assume disruption is coming.

With electric aircraft we have some time to prepare, so let’s not fall behind the eight ball again – as has happened with electric cars – and start to plan ahead.




Read more:
End of the road for traditional vehicles? Here are the facts


The Conversation


Jake Whitehead, Research Fellow, The University of Queensland and Michael Kane, Research Associate, Curtin University Sustainability Policy Institute,, Curtin University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Why our carbon emission policies don’t work on air travel



File 20180703 116129 1xj9a0q.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
The Gillard government’s carbon price had no effect on the aviation industry.
Shutterstock

Francis Markham, Australian National University; Arianne C. Reis, Western Sydney University; James Higham, and Martin Young, Southern Cross University

The federal government’s National Energy Guarantee aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the electricity industry by 26% of 2005 levels. But for Australia to meet its Paris climate change commitments, this 26% reduction will need to be replicated economy-wide.

In sectors such as aviation this is going to be very costly, if not impossible. Our modelling of the carbon price introduced by the Gillard government shows it had no detectable effect on kilometres flown and hence carbon emitted, despite being levied at A$23-$24 per tonne.

If Australia is to meet its Paris climate commitments, the National Energy Guarantee target will need to be raised or radical measures will be required, such as putting a hard cap on emissions in sectors such as aviation.




Read more:
Obituary: Australia’s carbon price


Our analysis of domestic aviation found no correlation between the Gillard government’s carbon price and domestic air travel, even when adjusting statistically for other factors that influence the amount Australians fly.

This is despite the carbon price being very effective at reducing emissions in the energy sector.

To reduce aviation emissions, a carbon price must either make flying less carbon intensive, or make people fly less.

In theory, a carbon tax should improve carbon efficiency by increasing the costs of polluting technologies and systems, relative to less polluting alternatives. If this is not possible, a carbon price might reduce emissions by making air travel more expensive, thereby encouraging people to either travel less or use alternative modes of transport.

Why the carbon price failed to reduce domestic aviation

The cost of air travel has fallen dramatically over the last 25 years. As the chart below shows, economy air fares in Australia in 2018 are just 55% of the average cost in 1992 (after adjusting for inflation).

Given this dramatic reduction in fares, many consumers would not have noticed a small increase in prices due to the carbon tax. Qantas, for example, increased domestic fares by between A$1.82 and A$6.86.

The carbon price may have just been too small to reduce consumer demand – even when passed on to consumers in full.

Consumer demand may have actually been increased by the Clean Energy Future policy, which included household compensation.




Read more:
Carbon pricing is still the best way to cut emissions, if we get it right


https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/CJiPw/2/

The cost of jet fuel, which accounts for between 30 and 40% of total airline expenses, has fluctuated dramatically over the last decade.

As the chart below shows, oil were around USD$80-$100 per barrel during the period of the carbon price, but had fallen to around USD$50 per barrel just a year later.

Airlines manage these large fluctuations by absorbing the cost or passing them on through levies. Fare segmentation and dynamic pricing also make ticket prices difficult to predict and understand.

Compared to the volatility in the cost of fuel, the carbon price was negligible.

https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/QssWQ/1/

The carbon price was also unlikely to have been fully passed through to consumers as Virgin and Qantas were engaged in heavy competition at the time, also known as the “capacity wars”.

This saw airlines running flights at well below profitable passenger loads in order to gain market share. It also meant the airlines stopped passing on the carbon price to customers.




Read more:
The Paris climate agreement needs coordinated carbon prices to be successful


A carbon price could incentivise airlines to reduce emissions by improving their management systems or changing plane technology. But such an incentive already existed in 2012-2014, in the form of high fuel prices.

A carbon price would only provide an additional incentive over and above high fuel prices if there is an alternative, non-taxed form of energy to switch to. This is the case for electricity generators, who can switch to solar or wind power.

But more efficient aeroplane materials, engines and biofuels are more myth than reality.

What would meeting Australia’s Paris commitment require?

Given the failure of the carbon price to reduce domestic air travel, there are two possibilities to reduce aviation emissions by 26% on 2005 levels.

The first is to insist on reducing emissions across all industry sectors. In the case of aviation, the modest A$23-$24 per tonne carbon price did not work.

Hard caps on emissions will be needed. Given the difficulty of technological change, this will require that people fly less.

The second option is to put off reducing aviation emissions and take advantage of more viable sources of emissions reduction elsewhere.

By increasing the National Energy Guarantee target to well above 26%, the emission reductions in the energy sector could offset a lack of progress in aviation. This is the most economically efficient way to reduce economy-wide emissions, but does little to reduce carbon pollution from aviation specifically.

The ConversationAirline emissions are likely to remain a difficult problem, but one that needs to be tackled if we’re to stay within habitable climate limits.

Francis Markham, Research Fellow, College of Arts and Social Sciences, Australian National University; Arianne C. Reis, Senior lecturer, Western Sydney University; James Higham, Professor of Tourism, and Martin Young, Associate Professor, School of Business and Tourism, Southern Cross University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Without a global deal, US curbs on airline emissions are hot air


David Hodgkinson, University of Western Australia and Rebecca Johnston, University of Notre Dame Australia

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last week issued a “proposed finding” that greenhouses gases from aviation pose a danger to the health and welfare of current and future generations. It could pave the way for regulations to limit domestic US aircraft emissions – but there are plenty of hurdles still to jump before that happens.

The EPA already regulates aircraft pollution such as engine smoke, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide – and has done so for more than 30 years. So on the face of it, its new finding that greenhouse gases “may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health and welfare” makes it sound like it will be a straightforward matter to add carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to the list.

Using the EPA to rule on emissions-reduction issues is a tactic that the Obama administration has used several times recently. The new finding on aviation follows similar reports on emissions from road haulage
and power plants.

High-flying problems

Aviation is the most emissions-intensive form of transport, and also the fastest-growing source of emissions in the transport sector. What’s more, those emissions are essentially unregulated. This means that emissions from aviation are increasing against a background of decreasing emissions (or at least, against a background of emissions regulation) from many other industry sectors.

Based on Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) calculations, aviation accounts for about 3% of global greenhouse emissions, although the figure could be as low as 2% or as high as 8%. If the aviation industry was a country, its carbon dioxide emissions would be ranked about 7th, between Germany and South Korea.

Air travel continues to grow at 4-5% per year, and although emissions from domestic flights are regulated under many countries’ existing greenhouse gas targets, international aviation emissions are not covered by any agreement.

Under the Kyoto Protocol, emissions from international flights are the responsibility of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Aviation is excluded from international climate policy; the problem is left to the industry to resolve, and none of the more than 3,500 bilateral air service agreements in place across the world addresses the question of emissions.

A UK study found that even if the expanding industry were to implement the “maximum feasible reductions” in emissions through changes to technology and operating procedures, total emissions from the sector may still roughly double by 2050, depending on growth.

Learning from Europe’s aviation debacle

The new US regulations will not attempt to include overseas airlines in its regulatory reach – something the European Union tried and failed when it attempted to incorporate overseas airlines into its Emissions Trading Scheme from 2012.

To head off that action, the US Congress in 2011 passed legislation, which President Obama signed, prohibiting US aircraft operators from participating in the EU scheme, essentially making it illegal for US airlines to comply with EU law.

The result was that the EU backed down, and announced that it would freeze the inclusion of international aviation in its ETS, offering instead to “stop the clock” and allow the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to address the problem of regulation.

This time around, the US regulations would apply to private and scheduled flights on domestic routes, as well as international flights by US carriers, but not to non-US airlines flying routes into the United States.

This may sound like progress, particularly for a country with such a large domestic aviation market. But there is yet another reason why this is only progress on paper, for now.

I’ll do it if you do it

The US EPA has stated that its proposed regulations will only be implemented if international standards for emissions are agreed by ICAO. That’s a problem, because since 1997 the ICAO has failed to agree on any kind of solid approach to the issue.

In 2013, the ICAO Assembly reached a consensus agreement to proceed with a roadmap towards a decision on a global market-based mechanism at the next assembly in 2016, for implementation in 2020. It is the kind of “agreement to agree” that the world is growing rather used to on matters of climate policy.

EPA Office of Transportation and Air Quality director Christopher Grundler said that the United States wants to wait until there are international standards, because this “will achieve the most reductions [in emissions]”. And Airlines for America’s Nancy Young has described it as “critical” for the industry that agreement should be international.

On one view, then, this is simply the illusion of progress. It suggests that the US regulations are a long way from coming into force, given that the rest of the world – through the ICAO – is making no real or immediate progress.

The reality is that implementation of rules to hold the aviation industry to account for its emissions is still years away.

The Conversation

David Hodgkinson is Associate Professor at University of Western Australia.
Rebecca Johnston is Adjunct Lecturer, Law School at University of Notre Dame Australia.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

Nepal: Unmanned Drones to Patrol Poaching


The link below is to an article reporting on Nepal’s plan to use unmanned aircraft to control poaching.

For more visit:
http://www.timeslive.co.za/scitech/2012/09/12/nepal-to-use-unmanned-aircraft-to-control-wildlife-poaching

STEVE FOSSETT MYSTERY SOLVED???


A little over a year ago, adventurer Steve Fossett disappeared while on a flight from Nevada in the United States. Now items allegedly belonging to Steve Fossett have been found by a Preston Morrow while hiking through a remote area in California near Mammoth Lakes. The area where the items were found is west of Mammoth Lakes in the Inyo National Forest.

The items included items of ID with Steve Fossett’s name on it, cash and a jumper. The ID included a pilot’s license and a Federal Aviation Administration Identity Card.

The items found on Tuesday the 30th September 2008 have been handed over to police.

A command centre was soon set up at Mammoth Lakes Airport and aerial searches of the area where the items were found carried out. Aircraft wreckage has been found in the area and the wreckage is now being investigated.

Fossett’s plane took off from a private airfield south of Reno in Nevada on the 3rd September 2007 and he has not been heard off since. Fossett has been declared dead by authorities.

 

BELOW: Footage covering the story

BELOW: Footage covering the original story of Fossett’s disappearance