21 Feb 2020, 14:21
Benjamin Wehrmann

Electric commercial aviation still a distant vision, synthetic fuels more realistic – engine producer MTU

Die Welt

Leading German aircraft engine manufacturer MTU Aero Engines does not expect electric aviation with large commercial airplanes to become reality anytime soon, Gerhard Hegmann writes for newspaper Die Welt. Aircraft engine makers are experiencing a sense of "disillusionment" now, MTU's CEO Reiner Winkler said, arguing that synthetic fuels, which cost up to four times more than standard airplane kerosene, would be the only way to reduce emissions in the foreseeable future. The company from Munich says other technological solutions would still require a lot of time, arguing that an airplane weighing 100 tonnes would need batteries with the same weight to sustain itself in the air, given current technology standards. MTU advocates a mandatory quota for synthetic fuels and state aid to erect the necessary infrastructure for "green aviation," for example with so-called power-to-liquid facilities, where jet fuel is produced with renewable power sources, an option also endorsed by environment minister Svenja Schulze. For the time being, MTU would have to continue making its fossil combustion engines more efficient, which could help the company achieve a new record profit this year, the article says.

While the climate impact of aviation is an increasingly debated issue in Germany, the number of flights taking off from or landing in the country keeps growing to new record levels. The German Aviation Association (BDL) has called for a joint European effort to boost the production and use of synthetic jet fuels to allow for carbon-neutral flights. A state-sponsored "competence centre" for climate action in aviation was launched at Germany's most important airport in Frankfurt am Main in January to facilitate progress in synthetic airplane fuel production and other climate-friendly technologies.

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