Air New Zealand Ltd. ordered an electric plane from an Amazon.com Inc.-backed startup as part of a plan to operate commercial flights with cleaner, next-generation aircraft in little more than two years.
The battery-powered plane from Beta Technologies takes off and lands like a normal jet and has flown as far as 500 kilometers (310 miles) in tests. Air New Zealand said Wednesday it plans to use it for short cargo flights in 2026, paving the way for larger, next-generation aircraft on normal domestic services from 2030.
Global aviation is racing to find ways of reaching carbon neutrality by 2050 after burning jet fuel with little restraint for more than half a century. Electric planes are one option for reducing emissions on shorter trips, though the technology isn’t yet viable for the long-haul flights that produce the bulk of aviation’s emissions.
Air New Zealand has options to buy two more of the ALIA aircraft from Beta, and has rights to purchase a further 20. A different version of the plane takes off and lands vertically like a helicopter.
The airline plans to operate initial flights with the ALIA on routes of around 150 kilometers. The plane is just over 12 meters long and will fly at speeds of as much as 270 kilometers an hour. Its battery is expected to take no more than one hour to recharge.