Green business champion Dale Vince plans to launch the UK’s first electric airline, reportedly by mid-2025.
Ecojet operations are set to begin in 2024, according to the Guardian, with 19-seater turboprop Edinburgh – Southampton flights that initially will run on kerosene but will be retrofitted in 2025 with a hydrogen-electric power train with a 300-mile range. Within 18 months, the airline plans to switch to 70-seater aircraft capable of European flights. Long haul flights are the long-term aim.
Vince has strong eco credentials as the founder of green energy firm Ecotricity, started in 1995. He has a long-standing interest in ethical, low-carbon ventures across various sectors such as food, energy and transport. He chairs Forest Green Rovers, a League 2 team reputed to be the “world’s greenest football club”. The entrepreneur also has a record of putting his money where his mouth is. He has donated thousands to the Just Stop Oil movement, as well as donating £1.5m to the UK Labour Party over 10 years.
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.Dale Vince, Ecojet founder
Although unhappy with burning fossil fuels at the start of the new project, the businessman has previously dismissed SAF (Sustainable Aviation Fuel) as a red-herring, once calling it “bullshit”. He said: “There is nowhere near enough land to grow the crops you’d need.”
Vince told the Guardian that starting with kerosene was a compromise: “It does feel like a contradiction but at the heart of this project is upcycling existing planes and retrofitting them. This is the pragmatic approach, which means we won’t lose time. We will build up the infrastructure, get the planes in the air and swap in the engines when they are available.”
Putting an initial investment of £1 million into the airline, Vince plans to raise further funds next year. “We want to prove that one of the last frontiers [of decarbonisation] can be broken and that it’s not insolvable,” he said. Part of Vince’s goal is to show that “green living is not about giving things up.” “A lot of people seem to think that people who are eco-conscious want everyone to live a life of self-denial in a cave. Green living is not about giving things up – everything we like to have in this life can be done in a net zero life,” he explained.
The airline is in the process of applying for UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) licencing and bagging slots at airports. With promises to price-match existing fares, Ecojet is targeting not just eco-minded flyers but a mass market customer base.