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United Airlines Powers Toward 100% Green Emissions

December 14, 2021 • 7:03 pm CST
(Vax Before Travel)

Chicago-based United Airlines announced on December 13, 2021, it became the largest airline to invest in zero-emission, hydrogen-electric engines for regional aircraft.

This is United's latest move toward achieving its goal to be 100% green by reducing its GHG emissions by 100% by 2050, without relying on traditional carbon offsets.

Through a new equity stake in ZeroAvia, United expects to buy up to 100 of the company's new zero-emission, 100% hydrogen-electric engines (ZA2000-RJ).

The engine could be retrofit to existing United Express aircraft as early as 2028.

Hydrogen-electric engines use electricity created by a chemical reaction in a fuel cell to power an electric motor instead of burning fossil fuel.

Because no fuel is burned, there are no climate-harming emissions or carbon released into the atmosphere when the engines are operated.

"Hydrogen-electric engines are one of the most promising paths to zero-emission air travel for smaller aircraft, and this investment will keep United out in front on this important emerging technology," said Scott Kirby, CEO of United, in a press release.

"United continues to look for opportunities to not only advance our sustainability initiatives but also identify and help technologies and solutions that the entire industry can adopt."

Under the agreement with United Airlines Ventures, United will pursue a conditional purchase agreement for 50 ZeroAvia ZA2000-RJ engines, with an option for 50 more, enough for up to 50 twin-engine aircraft which would be operated by United Express partners once they are fully developed and certified by regulators as soon as 2028.

On December 1, 2021, United made aviation history by operating the first passenger flight using 100% sustainable aviation fuel, from Chicago to Washington, D.C. The flight showcased the safety of sustainable aviation fuel and the potential for a dramatically reduced carbon footprint for aviation.