Let’s Fly to Sustainable Mobility

Transport is one of the biggest and fastest growing sources of CO2 emissions in the world. Transport runs for 90% on fossil fuels which makes it very polluting. A solution for this may be to look for other kinds of energy to fuel transport. We can already drive an electric car or travel by electric busses. For flying however we still use fossil oil. In this blog I will explore options for aviation that are in line with sustainable mobility. In the future we may even be using electric airplanes!

In many ways travelling by airplane is very attractive to people. It is comfortable, relatively cheap and extremely fast. Commercial aviation has become essential in the world economic system. However, how convenient it may be, aviation is also a very polluting source of transport. Second to diesel motor cars, aviation is the most polluting transportation  for passengers and freight. There are at least seven times more greenhouse gasses emitted when you fly in stead of take the train to the same destination. Aviation also causes pollution to a local and regional level. At a local level noise pollution can be a major disadvantage. All in all aviation is at the moment no where near sustainable mobility.

However, there is hope! First of all we can try to change peoples flying habits. By less flying, fewer emissions would be emitted and therefore pollution would be limited. However, this does not make flying on itself more sustainable. To become more sustainable, technological changes are necessary for the flying sector. Examples of technological changes are building more fuel efficient aircrafts, operating more efficiently or changing the fuel source. A radical improvement would be to use a different kind of fuel. Many experiments have been successfully done with biodiesel and carbon-neutral fuels.

Since the 1970s experiments with electric aircrafts have been conducted. The Airbus Group developt an all electric aircraft. In this video you see the test flight in which the E-fan crossed the English Channel, solely on electric power. Airbus group now plans to further develop this airplane and market different two different versions of it. There will be one that is solely powered by batteries and a hybrid version that could improve endurance up to 4 hours.

Even better endurance can be found with the aircrafts that are powered by photovoltaic cells, like the Solar Impulse. The solar impulse is a solar-powered aircraft. the Solar Impulse 2 could fly for 5 consecutive days without the use of any fuel! No other aircraft has ever done this before. This type of aircraft can even fly during the night. In February 2016 new exciting test flights will start.

There still is still research to be done and there are a lot of problems to be solved, before we can start using sustainable aircrafts. However, these examples show that sustainable aviation is possible! We have a start, now we must further develop our technologies. Although I do acknowledge that we are not there yet, I do believe there is hope for sustainable aviation in the future. Aviation is a major part of transport and should be green.

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7 thoughts on “Let’s Fly to Sustainable Mobility”

  1. It’s great to read that there is a potential ‘green way’ of aviation in the future. The downside is that is it going to take a while before it is widespread, so for more short term solutions providing alternatives or flying not as often are things to consider (as you mentioned). However I’m afraid that few people want to give up on flying so it may prove difficult to tackle this problem in the coming years.

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  2. Love it that there is a new technology that is more sustainable! I have done some research about sustainable aviation and I think the greatest obstacle to get this more sustainable is the big lobby. I believe that only when the airlines or politics see this as a better solution it will be applied, but for now nothing will change.

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  3. Dear Manon,

    I like your state of mind on the subject of creating more sustainable airplanes. I would however advise you to also look at more short term solutions for creating more sustainable planes. One particularly interesting intivative is the ‘Fuel Smart Initivative’ brought forth by American Airlines. This intivative focusses more on fuel conservation and other efficiency measures. I too believe eventually planes have to be fueled by carbon free fuels however, initivatives like the Fuel Free Initiative might be more feasible solutions for greener planes, at least in the short term.

    Gr Arash

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  4. Great Blog Manon. I think the idea of a sustainable way of traveling through the air appeals to a lot of people. But I think to reduce the amount of emissions that airplanes produce, the number of commercial flights has to go down. There are just so many commercial flights every day, the introduction of more sustainable ways of flying will be very hard if they want to take over that market.

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  5. Do you feel that starting at elecrical aviation is a good idea? At this point the technology is so far away from being usable can it not be a more sensible approach to start with electric public transport or cars and go up from there instead of starting at the most complicated which is planes?

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  6. Hey Manon!

    Even though I agree with the comments that state that technoogy is far away from being used, I do want to say that they can better start experimenting with these things, than just ignoring the possibilities alltogether. As Frans said, it is unrealistic to expect a great amount of people to give up flying for environmental purposes, also because of the process of globalization. However, taking a flight contributes a great deal to your personal footprint, and therefore I think making these plains a little more sustainable could allready mean a lot to transport sustainability. It would be great if we could just easily tyravel the World, without having to feel guilty about the pollution we cause, so I am all for it haha!

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  7. In this blog you discuss possibilities “ for aviation that are in line with sustainable mobility”., stating that “we may even be using electric airplanes” in the future. While I agree that this will make a big difference in regards to the effect that humans travelling via airplanes have on CO2 emissions, I do not think this is the main issue. You mention that aviation is the second “most polluting transportation for passengers and freight”. Indeed, I assert that it is the transportation of cargo, the importing and exporting of products, that is the main chunk of the CO2 emissions caused by airplanes. There are far more airplanes carrying cargo, then there are humans, And furthermore, the airplanes carrying cargo use much more energy than commercial airplanes, due to the added weight. Indeed, I believe even if you make every single commercial airplane electric, bio-fueled, or carbon-neutral (which arguably, may not even be possible), it will still not cut down CO2 emissions significantly, nor will it decrease the “noise pollution” you mention. The example you use for models of electric airplanes are merely single passenger airplanes- how will this model be implemented for a 400 + passenger airplane?
    Furthermore, the huge and vast amounts of shipping boats are also a huge issue at this point: causing an even greater pollution impact than aviation, due to the special type of diesel fuel they use. What if, instead of focusing on aviation, we push our focus towards changing the shipping boats’ fuel use? Or even better, change the way we import and export products? If we focus on a more local based production and economy, the amounts of freight planes and shipping boats will be drastically reduced, without the need for a change in the energy use.

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