New York – Experts believe that observing the carbon footprint of the aviation sector, which is in line with global plans to reduce pollutant emissions into the environment, seems to be full of challenges before reaching the goal, as it requires more time given the many determinants that will attract this trend. .
Since the beginning of this year, the world has witnessed strong initiatives in this sector, driven by the demands of companies for decarbonization and the interest of investors for new startups in the field of aviation technology.
Mark Daly, a technology and innovation analyst at Bloomberg Agency, says many emerging companies are conducting research and studies on a range of new technologies to contribute to the decarbonisation of the sector.
These technologies include the development of electric aviation, hydrogen and biofuel flight, and the redesign of aircraft to adapt to transformation in the field.
Mark Daly: The contribution of startups to sustainable aviation is limited
The aviation sector faces a difficult dilemma in its efforts to take into account the environment, as analysts and experts are debating whether airlines can reconcile between performing more flights and reducing carbon emissions from their fleets to contribute in international efforts to protect the climate.
But thanks to an increase in venture capital funding for climate technology startups, especially in the past year, low-carbon carriers have received the highest amount of funding.
Investors accept transportation as an investment sector because many of its shares offered are competitive in terms of cost and enjoy a high level of demand for its products in the market.
Moreover, the sector has seen successful models, especially those companies operating in the low-carbon road transport business, such as CITL battery manufacturer and Chinese electric car startup Niu.
However, it is remarkable that investors are looking for new opportunities and are expanding into the aviation and maritime transport sector with the development of low carbon road transport technology.
Bloomberg NEF estimates that investment in aviation technology from venture capital and direct investment funds has increased by 724% over the past four years, reaching $ 3 billion by the end of 2021.
Capital markets have also shown interest in the sector, with domestic urban air carriers such as Joby Aviation and Lilium raising billions of dollars over the past year through reverse mergers.
In this method, a private company buys a publicly traded company as a means to enter the market and not as an initial public offering in the market. Much of the investment in climate technology to date has been directed to air carriers in domestic markets, seeking to change the nature of private domestic travel between cities.
For example, an electric helicopter can travel from London to Heathrow in six minutes traveling at its full speed, but these flights will at best replace cars with another vehicle with more energy and in most cases bad will replace public transport.
Daly says that while the promise of this type of travel is exciting for investors, the startups’ contribution to overall sustainability goals will be limited.
Currently, more than 50 percent of global flights travel at a distance of less than 1111 km, but it represents only one percent of the total flight distance globally.
Required innovations include provisions for power groups such as electric motors, fuel cells or modified turbines and switching to carbon-neutral fuels.
These innovations are technically feasible and many new aircraft have been tested and proven successful on short-haul flights, but none have yet been commercially available.
Of the 225 startups identified by Bloomberg NEF as sustainable aviation technology, two stand out in particular, Twelve and Zerovira.
While Twelve has developed a process for converting carbon dioxide into aircraft fuel, Zeroavira has become a major player in the race to produce hydrogen aircraft. Both companies are working to improve performance and efficiency in sustainable aviation technologies, but they face significant hurdles in marketing their products.
Aviation experts stress that it is necessary to set up a new branch of aviation biofuels in order to increase available quantities and reduce prices.
The biggest challenges are spending a lot of money and time to replace traditional aircraft fleets with low-carbon ones, changing existing infrastructure, and adopting safety and security standards. Although investors will play a major role in the continuation of this trend, in the end a strong policy and regulation is needed to prove that these technologies are safe.
Indicators of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) show that airlines have improved their energy efficiency during the period 2009-2019 by 21.4 percent, but this has not prevented the growth of emissions of the sector.
Brian Moran, head of sustainable development at the American Boeing Group, believes that sustainable fuels play a key role, “without a doubt. If it is a radical solution to reduce emissions in the aviation sector, it is based on sustainable fuels.”
Sustainable aviation fuel costs four times more than kerosene and the main problem is its availability. It represented less than 0.1 percent of the fuel used in this sector in 2019, estimated at 360 billion liters.
In light of this, aviation experts believe that a new branch of aviation biofuels should be established to increase available quantities and lower prices. Indeed, European manufacturer Airbus has identified green hydrogen as “one of the most promising solutions” as part of its goal of delivering zero-emission aircraft by 2035.
A few months ago, the company unveiled a strategy that includes three concepts for its Zero aircraft, which will be powered by a mix of hydrogen fuel cells and hydrogen gas combustion engines.