SAS Scandinavian Airlines has signed a research agreement with Airbus to study hybrid and electric aircraft technology.

The memorandum of agreement covers joint research into the operational and infrastructure challenges involved with the large-scale introduction of hybrid and all-electric aircraft. The program, which is set to run from June to the end of 2020, will cover five work packages focusing on the impact of ground infrastructure and electrical charging on range, resources, time and availability at airports.

Airbus, which announced the research pact with SAS at its Innovation Days technology briefing on May 22, said the focus on reducing emissions is now fundamental to its plan to support sustainable, carbon-neutral growth in aviation. Although the manufacturer said current airliners are approximately 80% more fuel efficient on a per passenger kilometer basis than they were 50 years ago, the forecast growth in air travel over the next 20 years threatens to significantly increase the environmental impact of aviation.

Airports in Sweden have seen year-on-year passenger numbers drop for seven consecutive months, while 2018 marked the country’s weakest overall growth in passenger numbers in a decade. Referencing the Swedish teenage climate activist who is credited with sparking the trend away from air travel, Airbus chief technology officer Grazia Vittadini said, “My dream is to have Greta Thunberg step onto a zero emissions Airbus aircraft.”

Guy Norris