Britain’s low-cost airline EasyJet will soon be testing its new hybrid airplane. The aircraft will run on fuel cells as well as use regenerative braking to reclaim energy during landings. The fuel cells will power the plane’s electric motors when taxing on the ground, traditionally the time when aircraft uses about four percent of the plane’s fuel. The new hybrid system would charge lightweight batteries when the aircraft is on the ground. EasyJet says using fuel cells could likely same 50,000 tons of fuel annually. This announcement came on the heels of a statement issued by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) proposing a draft rule to set the first global greenhouse-gas emissions standard for aircrafts. Globally, airplanes produced more than 492 million tons of CO2 in 2014, a number that is expected to get bigger as 56,000 new aircraft are projected to traverse the skies by 2040. This figure was projected by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), an environmental group based in New York City who claims that CO2 emissions from air travel and transport could triple or even quadruple in the next 25 years.
ICAO’s draft rule will apply to most commercial and business aircraft. The rule responded to last December’s COP 21 UN climate agreement signed in Paris which didn’t address aircraft emissions impact on global warming. According to an article in Nature “How Aircraft Emissions Contribute to Warming,” emission from international aviation or shipping together “account for more than 3% of humanity’s CO2 output.”
The ICAO plan is slated to take effect in 2028 and is expected to decrease fuel consumption by new aircraft at cruising speed by an average of 4% compared with the current level, according to the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), a non-profit research group based in Washington DC. The ICAO is expected to adopt the CO2 standard later this year.