Green entrepreneur to launch UK's first hydrogen-powered airline

In sharp contradiction to its mission, it will begin with kerosene-powered flights first.
Ameya Paleja
Hydrogen powered flights are coming soon to the UK
Hydrogen powered flights are coming soon to the UK


Dale Vince, the founder of UK-based Ecotricity, has set his eyes on a new green project, powering flights with renewable energy. His venture, dubbed Ecojet, will use hydrogen-electric aircraft to make flying with carbon emissions a reality, a press release said.

The aviation industry is responsible for three percent of global carbon emissions. While this might sound like a small number, the emissions are created by a significantly smaller number of users. Moreover, the impact of these emissions is three times as much due to the altitude at which these emissions are released.

As countries look to electrify their transportation, aviation remains outside this transition due to a lack of technology sufficiently advanced enough to make this change. In such a scenario, announcing a new airline powered by renewable energy is eye-grabbing.

How Ecojet plans to transform aviation?

Ecojet's approach to decarbonizing the aviation industry skips over the proposed battery-based electric flights and aims at powering them using hydrogen-electric powertrains. Instead of returning to the drawing board and designing a whole new aircraft, Ecojet plans to retrofit existing wings with new engines simply.

This move alone is estimated to save 90,000 tonnes of carbon per year and will give a new lease of life to existing planes that are still very much fly-worthy. Since the aviation sector's emissions are not related to flights alone, Vince's Ecojet will also take additional steps, such as eliminating single-use plastic and using environment-friendly uniforms for their staff.

A flyer will also notice that meals on Ecojet do not use farmed meat but are sourced from plants instead. Such add-ons typically increase the airfare for travelers already feeling the pinch of higher airfares. However, Ecojet also wants to be competitive on price, Vince told The Guardian.

When will services begin?

Ecojet plans to commence flights between Edinburgh and Southampton in early 2024. Hydrogen-electric powertrains are still a few years away from flying people on commercial flights, and current regulation in the UK does not allow that either.

Green entrepreneur to launch UK's first hydrogen-powered airline
Stock image of a future flight powered by hydrogen

So, Ecojet plans to begin its services with a kerosene-powered 19-seater turboprop aircraft and first secure its license from the Civil Aviation Authority and airport slots. Those will then replace the aircraft with retrofitted engines that use hydrogen to generate electricity.

In the second phase, the airline will introduce a 70-seater aircraft with a more extended range and connect destinations in Europe with zero-carbon emissions.

Vince told The Guardian that he wasn't entirely happy with this approach but also believes that upcycling and retrofitting planes is at the heart of this project. For now, the venture will look to build its infrastructure and switch to greener options when they become available.

Vince does not take flights to travel but will take them when Ecojet is launched.

"The question of how to create sustainable air travel has plagued the green movement for decades; Ecojet is by far the most significant step towards a solution to date," Vince said in the press release.