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.