Air Canada Is Buying 30 Electric-Hybrid Aircraft With Zero Emissions On Battery Power

The small planes will serve regional and commuter routes.

Staff Writer
ES-30 electric-hybrid aircraft outfitted for Air Canada.

ES-30 electric-hybrid aircraft outfitted for Air Canada.

After its 2021 pledge to hit net zero greenhouse gas emissions before 2050, Air Canada has been rolling out new efforts to meet that goal. Its latest attempt is a purchase of 30 new ES-30 electric-hybrid aircrafts, which they say generate zero emissions when flying on battery power, per a recent press release.

These new planes are quite small, carrying only a total of 30 passengers each. They're destined for regional and commuter flights, and Air Canada anticipates the planes will provide "low-emission connectivity to local communities over the medium-to-long term."

And "medium-to-long term" is right: the new ES-30s are expected to roll out no sooner than 2028, just two years shy of Air Canada's first sustainability goals. The company has pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions from flights by 20% and to reduce emissions from ground operations by 30% (as compared to a 2019 baseline).

The new electric hybrid planes are just one tool in Air Canada's sustainability and climate strategy, which also includes "supporting the development of new technologies, such as sustainable aviation fuels and carbon capture," according to CEO Michael Rousseau.

But current efforts in the airline industry may ultimately be too little, too late, according to some environmental groups, including ClimateFast. The organization released an open letter earlier this summer, cosigned by other climate justice groups and researchers. Citing Transport Canada's Action Plan to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Aviation's 2019 Annual Report, the letter notes that greenhouse gas emissions from Canadian airlines increased by 75% between 2005 and 2019.

This increase came despite the launch of the anti-emissions Action Plan in 2012. “Canada’s 2012 action plan on aviation emissions, which was also developed behind closed doors with industry, failed to stem the growth in aviation emissions,” wrote Lyn Adamson, Co-Chair of ClimateFast.

“Every sector of our society must be transformed if we are to preserve a livable planet for our children," wrote Doris Grinspun, CEO of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, in the open letter. "Air transportation is no exception.”

For now, we can simply expect to see more electric-hybrid planes on short, regional flights from Air Canada at some point in the next five-plus years. Whether that will be enough to hit Air Canada's own emissions targets is as yet unclear.

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