Climate change: Can electric aeroplanes help save our planet?

Last updated at 05:52
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One of the biggest contributors to climate change is transport and the greenhouse gases produced by vehicles.

Electric cars and buses are becoming more common, but what about electric planes?

After Prime Minister Theresa May recently announced plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions to almost zero by 2050, this could be one big way to help.

How do aeroplanes affect the environment?

Planes give off a range of greenhouse gases, mainly carbon dioxide, which contribute to climate change.

There are different reasons they do this, but it's mainly through the carbon-rich 'fossil fuels' used to power their engines.

Planes are pretty unique too, because they give off these gases directly into the higher levels of the atmosphere.

According to the Civil Aviation Authority, research suggests that gases can have different effects when emitted at this altitude compared to at ground level.

At the moment the UK's aviation industry makes up around seven per cent of the UK's total greenhouse gas emissions.

And it's thought it that by 2050 it could make up a quarter, as other industries find more environmentally friendly ways of working.

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How would electric planes help the planet?

The benefits are similar to having electric cars or buses.

Having electric planes would mean that they're powered in a different way, so there's no need to use the fuels which currently produce a lot of greenhouse gases.

This would help reduce the amount of carbon dioxide which is damaging for the planet.

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Do electric planes already exist?

Yes they do.

They're mainly smaller aircraft, but more eco-friendly ways of powering bigger planes are being developed.

There are still no airliner-sized electric powered aircrafts being used though.

That's because there are lots of challenges - one of the biggest issues is how to put heavy batteries into an aircraft.

The technology is advancing though.

How soon could we fly on electric planes?

It's very unlikely that the next flight you go on will be battery powered, but experts think we won't have to wait too long.

The UK Government suggests that by 2050 it's possible there'll be some form of "hybrid engine technology", combining electric and traditional fuels, which "will allow for cruising between destinations using electric power".

It even suggests that 20 years sooner, by 2035, there could be hybrid aircraft going on routes of up to 1,000km - that's the equivalent of flying from London to Geneva.

Lots of other countries are looking at the idea, for example Norway is aiming to have all its short-haul flights powered by battery by 2040.

It's thought that by the end of 2019, there could be 200 electric-powered aircraft projects around the world, according to consulting firm Roland Berger which has been monitoring the industry.

What do you think about electric planes? Let us know in the comments below.

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