The airline is set to begin short-haul electric aircraft services by 2026
United Airlines, alongside its regional airline partner Mesa Airlines and Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV), has announced a landmark investment in electric aircraft start-up Heart Aerospace.
Based in Sweden, the company is developing the ES-19, a 19-seat electric aircraft which has a potential range of 250 miles.
Under the agreement United Airlines has agreed to purchase 100 of the type with Mesa Airlines who has also agreed to 100 examples. Both deals are subject to the programme meeting the airlines’ safety, business and operating requirements.
Anders Forslund, CEO of Heart Aerospace, said: "We couldn't be prouder to be partnering with United, Mesa and BEV on taking our ES-19 aircraft to market. I can't imagine a stronger coalition of partners to advance our mission to electrify short-haul air travel."
Through its venture capital arm, United Airlines Ventures, the carrier is building a portfolio of companies that focuses on innovative sustainability concepts and create the technologies and products necessary to build a carbon-neutral airline and reach United's net-zero greenhouse gas emissions goals.
United has committed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 100% by 2050 without relying on traditional carbon offsets, and it sees the participation in the development of new aircraft types, the way forward to achieving this.
Michael Leskinen, United's VP corporate development and investor relations, as well as UAV's president, said: "We have to build companies who have real potential to change how industries operate and, in our case, that means investing in companies like Heart Aerospace. We recognise that customers want even more ownership of their own carbon emissions footprint (and) we're proud to partner with Mesa Air Group to bring electric aircraft to our customers earlier than any other US airline.”
The aircraft in development by Heart Aerospace will have zero operational emissions and will utilise the same types of batteries as those found in electric cars. Using this technology, the airliner could eventually operate up to 100 of United’s regional routes including Chicago/O’Hare to Purdue University Airport and San Francisco to Modesto City/County Airport.
Leskinen added: “As battery technology improves, larger-gauge aircraft should become viable but we're not going to wait to begin the journey. That's why we're looking forward to beginning our work with Heart, so that, together, we can scale the availability of electric airliners and use them for passenger flights within the next five years."
The news is the latest future-focused announcement from the airline who in June reported that it had agreed to purchase up to 50 supersonic airliners from Boom supersonic, that will operate on 100% sustainable aviation fuel and enter service in 2029.