Sustainability takes flight


What if electric motors can reduce emissions in the atmosphere?

One could say that Pasi Pennanen is a dreamer. Though when he gazes upward, the CEO of Toroidion envisions an electric plane overhead.

Last year the Toroidion engineering team produced its first proof-of-concept electric supercar. Making headlines worldwide as the fastest electric vehicle in the world, the prototype is powered by the Finnish company’s revolutionary high-performance powertrain technology. 

For newcomers to the concept, this is a cutting edge, highly efficient method of transferring electricity from battery to motor.

“Our battery swap system was designed and developed for the 24 hours of Le Mans sports car race,” Pennanen states. “But actually it is very suitable for any type of logistics vehicle, or even aviation solutions.”

Up in the clouds, Toroidion’s powertrain and new types of electric motors can be supported by a hybrid charger, which enables power generation for long range flying. In fact, up to 30 percent of energy could be saved in fuel consumption for larger planes flying longer distances with an electric jet turbine. 

“Already today we have the technology where we can do cityscape flying within a one-hour radius, emission-free,” Pennanen says. “In terms of hybrids, the sky’s the limit really.”

Environmental skyline

Toroidion is currently awaiting significant investment to further develop its environmentally sound solution for the skies. In the meantime, airlines are busying themselves with reducing their impact in other ways.

Finnair remains committed to such innovation. Alongside significant cuts in the usage of anti-icing fluid and energy in corporate facilities, and waste per passenger, Finland’s national carrier is also making other significant changes.

“One very important issue when it comes to environmental matters is noise mitigation,” explains Outi Merilä, Finnair’s manager, environmental management. “It is something we are doing by renewing our fleet, as well as fine tuning our standard operating procedures.”

Finnair was the first operator in Europe to put the Airbus A350 into service last year. These new planes produce less noise emissions than any other wide body aircraft in Finnair’s current fleet. Moreover, a total of 19 new A350s will be in use by 2023, using 20 percent less fuel than their predecessors.

Fueling change

Finnair is also actively exploring more environmentally friendly fueling options. One initiative has seen the airline making three legs to Amsterdam and New York in recent years running solely on biofuel.

“We collaborate very closely with working groups to develop biofuels and related infrastructure,” Merilä states, “and are looking forward to the point where we can start using it more widely.”

In the meantime, Finnair already has a head start with curtailing its carbon dioxide emissions in line with the International Air Transport Association’s industry-wide target, by committing to carbon neutral growth from 2020 onward and cutting 50 percent of its emissions by 2050. 

“The most significant thing a cargo customer can do to reduce their emissions is to fly their cargo with an airline that has a modern fleet,” Merilä says. This means that the airlines that can afford to invest in new aircraft will be the winners in this game. 

Future looks sunny in Helsinki

Finnair considers environmentally sound developments on the ground, too. Set to open in May 2017, Finnair Cargo’s COOL Nordic Cargo terminal in Helsinki will harness solar power to meet the requirements of a 50 percent increase in cargo by 2020. All energy produced from solar panels will be re-used in the terminal.
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Text by James O'Sullivan
Photos by Sebastian Ratu and iStock

Published June 15, 2016

Category: Collaboration, Environment, Corporate Responsibility