During the COP 26 UN Climate Change Conference this week, Wright Electric unveiled its latest commercial aircraft, the 100-passenger Wright Spirit. According to the company, its new model outfits the British Aerospace (BAe) 146 airliner with Wright’s megawatt-class electric propulsion system for zero-emissions operation. The company has an ambitious plan to reach all-electric aircraft status by 2026.
“Because we built the world’s largest aerospace propulsive powertrain, we can build the world’s largest zero-emissions retrofit directly serving the world’s busiest routes,” Wright Electric’s CEO Jeff Engler said as part of the company’s announcement. Wright has spent the past couple of years working on the various components behind this environmentally-friendly upgrade.
According to Wright, its Wright Spirit aircraft will enable one-hour flights with up to 100 passengers, making it possible to transport travelers across popular short-haul routes, such as taking a flight from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Unlike existing aircraft one may find themselves on for this sort of short trip, Wright Spirit will offer a zero-emission all-electric propulsion system that reduces the environmental burden of air travel.
The company plans to swap out the BAe 146’s hydrocarbon propulsion system with its all-electric alternative, though the process won’t be immediate. Wright Electric plans to kick off flight testing using only one all-electric propulsor in 2023 following ground testing, among other things. Following that, the company will move on to testing with two electric propulsors by 2024, paving the way for the rollout of all-electric propulsion by 2026.
Though the Wright Spirit won’t offer long-haul flights, Engler said the company believes its all-electric aircraft can “make a significant impact on global emissions” by shuttling travelers across these high-demand, short-haul routes.
Assuming the company hits its 2026 goal, the Wright Spirit will represent a rapid acceleration in the industry’s mission to gravitate away from existing hydrocarbon-based technologies to ones that reduce air travel’s carbon footprint. Engler emphasized that point as part of the announcement, stating, “Aviation has committed to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, but Wright is committed to a 100% reduction in all emissions starting in 2026.”