In a little over five years, the regional plane pulling up to your airport gate could be a hybrid electric running on batteries. You’ll notice the quiet. You might not notice the drop in planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.

Aviation is only about 3% of global emissions now, but flight traffic is picking up quickly, and forecasts suggest air travel could be producing three to five times more emissions by 2050 than before the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s why there’s a big push to develop electric planes now to cut back on high-carbon aviation fuel. They’re getting close – Air Canada just followed United Airlines in ordering hybrid-electric 30-seaters that could start arriving in 2028.

Aerospace engineer Gökçin Çınar, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan, develops sustainable aviation concepts, including hybrid electric planes and hydrogen fuel alternatives. We asked her how hybrid electric airplanes work and how soon we might see electric and hydrogen-fueled 737s in the sky.

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Stacy Morford

Environment + Climate Editor

Small planes are easier to electrify, but larger ones aren’t far behind. Chalabala/istock via Getty Images

Electric planes are coming: Short-hop regional flights could be running on batteries in a few years

Gökçin Çınar, University of Michigan

Air Canada and United Airlines both have orders for hybrid electric 30-seaters. An aerospace engineer explains where electrification, hydrogen and sustainable aviation fuels are headed.

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