United Airlines Ventures (UAV) has signed an agreement with Heart Aerospace to acquire 100 of its ES-19 aircraft “to decarbonise regional air travel”.

The ES-19 uses electric motors and batteries rather than jet engines and jet fuel, and has a range of 400km. It is expected to be available for commercial flights from 2026, with United stating that it could operate on more than 100 of its regional routes out of hubs such as Chicago O’Hare International and San Francisco International.

This is a conditional agreement which is dependant on the aircraft meeting the airline’s safety, business and operating requirements.

The carrier has also invested in the Swedish start-up alongside Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV) and codeshare partner Mesa Airlines. The latter has also agreed to add 100 ES-19 aircraft to its fleet.

The investment is part of the airline’s aim to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 100 per cent by 2050 without relying on traditional carbon offsets. Earlier this year, United signed an agreement with Archer Aviation to accelerate the production of short-haul electric aircraft.

Michael Leskinen, United’s Vice President Corp Development and Investor Relations, and UAV’s President, commented:

“Breakthrough Energy Ventures is the leading voice of investors who are supporting clean-energy technology creation. We share their view that we have to build companies who have real potential to change how industries operate and, in our case, that means investing in companies like Heart Aerospace who are developing a viable electric airliner.

“We recognize that customers want even more ownership of their own carbon emissions footprint. We’re proud to partner with Mesa Air Group to bring electric aircraft to our customers earlier than any other US airliner.  Mesa’s long serving CEO, Jonathan Ornstein has shown visionary leadership in the field of electric-powered flight.”

“We expect the short-haul regional air travel market to play a key role in the evolution of the electric aircraft.  As battery technology improves, larger-gauge aircraft should become viable but we’re not going to wait to begin the journey. That’s why we’re looking forward to beginning our work with Heart, so that, together, we can scale the availability of electric airliners and use them for passenger flights within the next five years.”

Anders Forslund, CEO of Heart Aerospace, added:

“Electric aircraft are happening now—the technology is already here. We couldn’t be prouder to be partnering with United, Mesa and BEV on taking our ES-19 aircraft to market. I can’t imagine a stronger coalition of partners to advance our mission to electrify short-haul air travel.”

Earlier this year Finnair signed a Letter of Interest with Heart Aerospace for the same aircraft, while Rolls-Royce recently partnered with Scandinavian carrier Wideroe to develop an all-electric passenger aircraft.

Meanwhile Easyjet has partnered with US-based start-up Wright Electric to develop a 186-seat electric aircraft, with planned flight tests in 2023.

Easyjet partner plans to test electric aircraft in 2023

united.com; heartaerospace.com