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Environmental life-cycle assessment of universally electric aircraft

While electric propulsion leads to zero local emissions during operation, a comprehensive life-cycle assessment (LCA) is required to evaluate the overall carbon footprint. Such an assessment includes the production phase, that is generation of electric energy and manufacturing of aircraft and batteries, the operational phase, and the final disposal. An LCA study on universally electric aircraft, represented by the Ce-Liner, conducted at Bauhaus Luftfahrt has shown that the impact of the production phase is significant. Particularly the battery manufacturing causes greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the same order of magnitude as the aircraft production. A very low carbon footprint during the operational phase is required to enable a net benefit from electric flying. Examining scenarios defined by different sources of electricity clearly show the dominating impact of the electricity footprint on the total GHG emissions. Conservatively assuming utilisation of grid electricity in 2035 with an emission factor of 463 gCO2eq/kWh on global average (compared to, for example, 560 gCO2eq/kWh for Germany in 2014) would result in less than 10 % GHG reduction per passenger kilometre (PKM) for a fully electric aircraft compared to the evolutionarily developed 2035 reference aircraft. In contrast, purely renewable electric energy would enable GHG savings of more than 85 % for fully electric operation. The assessment of potential environmental and economic implications of electric flying and, in general, of utilising carriers of electric energy in aviation will remain an important research task at Bauhaus Luftfahrt.

  • Carbon footprint of electric flying: Greenhouse gas emissions per passenger kilometre (PKM): comparison with current reference aircraft (A321), 2035 conventional reference aircraft (B787-3+), and Ce-LinerCarbon footprint of electric flying: Greenhouse gas emissions per passenger kilometre (PKM): comparison with current reference aircraft (A321), 2035 conventional reference aircraft (B787-3+), and Ce-Liner
  • Impact of the utilised electricity on the overall carbon footprint: Ce-Liner’s life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions for three scenarios (pessimistic, standard, and optimistic case) as well as their share of production and use phase in each scenarioImpact of the utilised electricity on the overall carbon footprint: Ce-Liner’s life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions for three scenarios (pessimistic, standard, and optimistic case) as well as their share of production and use phase in each scenario