ElectricAir launches NZ’s first electric aircraft into service

Clean aviation is everywhere.  While much of the development is being seen in UK, US, Germany, China and other countries, the Slovenian aircraft company Pipistrel has now got one of their electric light aircraft flying in New Zealand.  The aircraft has been officially launched Christchurch start-up ElectricAir.

The plane is a battery electric two-seat light sport aircraft manufactured by Slovenian aircraft company Pipistrel and has begun demonstration flights from Christchurch. Designed as a training aircraft, it will be available for people wanting to experience electric flight and learn to fly in a more sustainable way.

ElectricAir founder Gary Freedman says the idea to operate New Zealand’s first electric plane began back in 2016.

“I was driving an electric car but flying a petrol plane. It just wasn’t good enough, so I set out to find a solution. On the pretence of a family holiday in Slovenia, I visited the Pipistrel factory and flew in the Alpha Electro. I was hooked and the rest is history,” Gary says.

ElectricAir’s mission is to promote the uptake of electric aircraft to reduce the aviation industry’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The start-up has received support from Christchurch City Council’s Innovation and Sustainability Fund and the Christchurch Agency for Energy Trust.

“The battery electric aircraft is just the type of innovation that the Council wants to support for the city. Aviation transportation is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions and this initiative demonstrates a technology that reduces emissions and provides the opportunity to educate pilots and the community about this exciting new technology” Christchurch City Council Resource Efficiency Manager Kevin Crutchley says.

Christchurch Airport has supported the ElectricAir project as another part of its electrification and decarbonisation programme. General Manager of Strategy and Sustainability Rhys Boswell says ElectricAir will be the inaugural user of the newest charging infrastructure.

“We use electricity to power jet aircraft while they’re parked on the ground, we offer EV and e-Bike charging stations, so installing e-plane charging infrastructure was a natural next step,” he says. “We are proud to be the launch pad for ElectricAir and to further power up to keep emissions down.

ElectricAir believes New Zealand is a no brainer for electric planes, with one of the highest rates of short haul flights per person of any country in the world and an electricity grid powered from predominantly renewable sources.

“It’s important that we show our commitment to sustainability and 100% renewable energy generation which is why we have chosen Meridian as our power provider. In addition, Meridian’s Certified Renewable Energy product means that we can report our scope 2 emissions as zero*, which really helps reinforce what we are about.” Gary says.

Meridian’s Chief Customer Officer, Lisa Hannifin says, “We’re proud to have partnered with Electric Air, who like Meridian, understands that electrification of transport is one of the biggest ways that our country can help to combat climate change.”

Airways has also thrown its support behind ElectricAir. “By supporting Electric Air’s operations in controlled airspace, Airways is continuing to help our aviation community explore innovative ways of reducing carbon emissions and aircraft noise while ensuring aviation safety,” Airways Head of Public Affairs Emily Davies says.

“Getting this venture off the ground would not have been possible without the support of our partners and I want to thank them for being part of this revolution to clean up our skies,” Gary says.

*Using the market-based reporting methodology as per the GHG Protocol’s Scope 2 Standards.

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