The airplane industry has lagged behind most industries when it comes to switching from fossil fuels to cleaner alternatives, mostly because the alternatives were difficult to work with. In recent years, however, the electric aviation industry has attracted over $5 billion in funding.
Driving the news: On Wednesday, an aviation company from Vermont announced it had secured $375 million in a Series B funding round, bringing the total close to $800 million. Beta Technologies, an electric aircraft startup, is working with Amazon and the United States Postal Service to change the way short-range cargo deliveries work.
Details: According to Forbes, TPG Rise Climate Fund and Fidelity led the funding round, raising the company’s valuation to $2.4 billion.
- Beta Technologies’ product, the Alia, is a vertical aircraft with no internal combustion that takes on and off without a runway, like a large drone, as Ben Ryder Howe described it in The New York Times.
- It is designed to fly up to 170 mph and takes about an hour to fully charge.
- According to Valley News, it will be able to use the air as a runway. The Alia has already completed 200 test flights and will now seek certification from the Federal Aviation Administration.
- The company is also creating a charging network that works for cars as well as planes.
Why it matters: The Environmental Protection Agency estimated that aircrafts are responsible for 10% of greenhouse gas emissions from transportation. (Total emissions from transportation account for 29% of emissions.)
Yes, and: It’s also much harder to make an electric airplane. Batteries are too heavy and planes need to be light, which is why, for the longest time, they were no match for fossil fuels. The extra bulk negated the efficiency of electric aviation, as well.
What’s next: The Federal Aviation Administration has never certified electrically propelled airplanes as safe for commercial use but in the coming years, things are likely to change.
The agency is already working on creating a guide to certification for electric engine manufacturers.
The bigger picture: Other companies are also racing to get the certification, including Lilium Air Mobility, Joby Aviation, Archer Aviation and Elroy Air.