Air New Zealand and turboprop airliner manufacturer ATR say they plan to look at the use of hybrid technology to power regional aircraft.
The two companies said on Friday they had signed an agreement to “explore the role new propulsion technologies could play in the future of the regional aircraft ecosystem”.
“Under the agreement the partners will investigate the development of these new solutions and the required systems to support them such as airport and regulatory infrastructure, maintenance, ground and flight operations,” the pair said in a statement.
Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon said he expected hybrid aircraft to enter the market in the next decade or so.
“Depending on when hybrid and electric technologies become available for larger turboprop aircraft, we believe there is potential for these to be a viable option for our regional network,” Luxon said.
Air New Zealand has one of the largest ATR fleets in the world with 20 72-600s and seven 72-500s servicing regional destinations across the island nation. There are also nine more 72-600s on to come between now and 2020 as part of an order first announced in 2015.
In addition to the ATR fleet, the airline also operates 23 Q300 turboprops.
Luxon said that with the regional fleet contributing about 40 per cent of the airline’s domestic emissions, the use of new technologies represented an “enormous opportunity” for carbon savings.
The airline is aiming to achieve carbon neutral growth from 2020 and reducing its emissions by 50 per cent of 2005 levels by 2050.
ATR chief executive Stefan Bortoli said “hybrid and electric aircraft clearly are in that way forward”.
“The combination of ATR and Air New Zealand jointly exploring the huge opportunities and implications on the whole regional aviation ecosystem is the perfect team,” Bortoli said.
“This will be a unique benchmark for the industry and for New Zealand and we look forward to starting this exciting project together.”
Aviation industry has set emissions reduction targets
In October 2016, an overwhelming majority of the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO) 191 member states agreed to the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA).
Further, 73 nations, including Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea in this part of the world, agreed to be part of CORSIA from the start.
The landmark agreement has among its targets for the industry to achieve carbon neutral growth by 2020, in addition to a 50 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050, compared with 2005 levels.
ICAO has also come up with a CO2 emissions standard, where aircraft will have to meet a maximum fuel burn per flight kilometre baseline which must not be exceeded. The standard would apply to new aircraft designs from 2020, while new deliveries of current in-production aircraft models would be subject to the CO2 standard from 2023.
Further, the ICAO measure also recommended a cut-off date of 2028 for production aircraft that did not comply with the standard.
Moreover, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has set a target of an average improvement in fuel efficiency of 1.5 per cent per year from 2009 to 2020, as well as aspirations to build an aircraft that produced no emissions within 50 years.
Air transport accounts for about two per cent of global man-made CO2 emissions. The figure has been relatively constant over the past 20 years and is not expected to increase beyond three per cent by 2050.