Context: In a breakthrough for electric flight technology, a 750-horsepower electric engine made by MagniX, an Australian electric motor manufacturer, will power a Cessna 208 Caravan aircraft to fly for an expected 20-30 minutes over Washington state.

More on News:

  • This will be the largest aircraft ever to fly on electric power.
  • In December last year, an engine from the same company powered a seaplane in Vancouver, Canada, in what was described as the “world’s first” 100 percent electric flight.
  • The retrofitted Caravan plane, which can carry nine passengers, is expected to take off on May 28 and will fly at a speed of 183 kmph.


  • Such electric flights could require significantly less maintenance compared to fuel-based aircraft and could lead to short-distance flights becoming cheaper. 
    • Thus helping make it more viable for airlines to fly to remote locations.
  • Combating Climate Change: The aviation sector is a fast-growing source of carbon emissions, and significantly contributes to climate change. 
    • According to the World Wildlife Federation, unregulated carbon pollution from aviation is the fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas emissions
    • If the entire sector is considered as a country, it would be among the 10 most polluting nations on the planet. 
    • Thus electric flights can tackle the menace of climate change as they don’t release these harmful gases.


  • Despite the promise shown by short-range electric flights, several more years of development is expected for powering long-distance journeys
  • A major obstacle in this process is battery technology, with the weight of the battery being a major challenge.
    • They have a very big battery vis a vis conventional planes , which enhances the weight of aircraft and reduces the efficiency.

Way Ahead:

  • Apart from MagniX, several companies are involved in making electric flights a reality.
    • The ride-sharing company Uber has announced air taxis to fly as early as 2023. 
    • Major industry players such as Airbus and Rolls Royce, a number of startups, as well as the space agency NASA are involved in developing electric flight technologies.
  • By 2050, the aviation industry is expected to cater to 16 billion passengers, up from 2.4 billion in 2010. 
    • If the sector solely relies on conventional technologies, emissions would triple by 2050.
  • Making the aviation sector eco-friendly is an important step for meeting the 2016 Paris Agreement’s goal.
  • Environmental activism has already impacted the popularity of air travel as a mode of transport. 
    • According to a UBS bank study from October last year, campaigns such as those by Greta Thunberg and the Swedish concept of “flygskam” or “flight shaming” are expected to cause people to cut down on their flying habits in the US and Europe.   

Paris Agreement:

  • It is an agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), dealing with greenhouse-gas-emissions mitigation, adaptation, and finance.
  • The agreement's language was negotiated by representatives of 196 state parties at the 21st Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC in Le Bourget, near Paris, France, and adopted by consensus on 12 December 2015.
  • As of February 2020, all UNFCCC members have signed the agreement, 189 have become party to it, and the only significant emitters which are not parties are Iran and Turkey.
  • The Paris Agreement's long-term temperature goal is - 
    • To keep the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels; and 
    • To pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 °C, recognizing that this would substantially reduce the risks and impacts of climate change. 
  • This should be done by reducing emissions as soon as possible, in order to "achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases" in the second half of the 21st century. 
  • It also aims to increase the ability of parties to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change, and make "finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development."


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