[May 27, 2021: Josh Shavit]
As the world starts to become increasingly aware of the grimy carbon footprint left behind by airplane travel, could it be time to bring back to the blimp?
Hybrid Air Vehicles, a UK-based company, has recently revealed a new concept design of their around 100-passenger airships that hopes to revolutionize city hopping, all while reducing carbon emissions. The images of the flashy interior are just an ambitious plan for the moment, but the company argues the airship would be well-suited to city-to-city journeys, such as Liverpool to Belfast in the UK, Barcelona to Palma in Spain, or Seattle to Vancouver in Canada.
A journey by airship would take slightly longer than one by airplane. For instance, a flight from Liverpool to Belfast across the Irish Sea is approximately 4 hours and 24 minutes, check-in and security time included, while the airship will take 5 hours and 20 minutes in theory. However, the payoff comes in the amount of carbon dioxide released — 67.75 kilograms (149.36 pounds) of carbon emissions per passenger by plane, compared to 4.75 kilograms (10.47 pounds) per passenger by airship.
The company claims their standard Airlander 10 model can complete journeys with a total of a 75 percent reduction in emissions compared to conventional aircraft. They eventually hope to introduce a hybrid-electric model by 2025, which would produce emissions by 90 percent, then a totally electric model by 2030 that would be a zero-emissions aircraft.
Around 2.4 percent of global CO2 emissions from fossil fuel use come from the aviation industry and, together with the water vapor trails released by aircraft, is responsible for around five percent of global warming. That might not sound too worrying, but it’s worth remembering that only a fraction of the world’s population regularly fly and the vast amount of climate damage is caused by an “elite minority” of frequent flyers.
In a bid to woo over air travel aficionados, the company also hopes to make the experience more pleasurable than the typical foray of sticky seats and minimal legroom.
“For many decades flying from A to B has meant sitting in a metal tube with tiny windows – a necessity but not always a pleasure. On Airlander, the whole experience is pleasant, even enjoyable,” George Land, Commercial Business Development Director at Hybrid Air Vehicles, said in a recent statement.
Hybrid Air Vehicles has flown a full-scale prototype of Airlander 10, but it’s unclear how many of their plans will get off the ground, so to speak. That said, the company says it’s pumped in $150 million into developing Airlander 10 and its technology. They also claim they’ve received grant funding from both the EU and the UK, as well as investment from the US Department of Defense.
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