Hybrid Electric Aviation - Future of Energy


Industry Disruption: Hybrid Electric Aviation

The path to a 'zero-emission' aviation industry

In the past year, Deloitte has had the privilege of joining with the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure & Water (‘The Ministry’) to set up the ‘Action Programme for Hybrid Aviation’ (‘AHEV’). This programme establishes a long-term vision and plan and executes disruption for the creation of a ‘zero-emission aviation industry in 2070 – or as soon as possible’. Hybrid electric aviation is strongly viewed as one of the more promising avenues to achieve this.

Action Programme for Hybrid Aviation

The programme is a collaborative effort of a wide ecosystem including parties from internationally renowned knowledge and research institutes, industry representatives and government agencies. 

Case for change

Globally, aviation connectivity is a strong driver of economic growth, jobs, trade and mobility. At the same time, growth in air traffic needs to be reconciled with maintaining high standards of aviation safety as well as reducing aviation's significant environmental footprint. The aviation industry is one of many industries that has a heavy impact on our global emissions. If no major change to fuel sources is made, CO2 emission will further grow to significant levels based on the Global Carbon Budget of 1.5C. 


  • The airline industry represents ~2.5% of all global CO2 emissions

2050 projections (assuming the airline industry grows at ~5% per year):

  • With current industry trends CO2 standards and outputs, the aviation sector would consume as much as 27% of the global CO2 budget.
  • Based on planned reduction and ‘more efficient’ fossil fuel-based technology the industry will still project to consume over 12% of the annual CO2 budget.

The Netherlands believes sustainability means both the long-term continuity of a connected Europe and reduction of the environmental footprint of the aviation sector. Flight movements and emissions are increasing every year. Therefore, disruptive innovation is needed, and Hybrid electric aviation is viewed as a promising path towards zero-emission aviation. Moreover, electric planes are quieter, which enables the employment of smaller airports for better global coverage.

Reference: ICAO – International Civil Aviation Organization – Environmental Report & Data+

The start of the disruption

With the case for change clear to the AHEV programme and its partners, they set forth a strong goal for their overall long-term industry vision…

        “Zero emission in 2070 – or as soon as possible”

To do so, they understood that such an endeavour would require heavy national and international cooperation and alignment. Government agencies, industry leaders and academia are required to come together to enable the change and embark upon such a massive endeavour. This endeavour and assignment for the programme created three core objectives that they will focus on:

  • Accelerate the (disruptive) innovation towards Hybrid Electric Aviation (Zero-emission).
  • Encourage a leap forward and adopt breakthrough innovations.
  • Organize, collaborate and (re)build the aviation ecosystem to achieve accelerated market introduction and fleet renewal.

"Historically, the Netherlands has held a very strong position in aviation. We want to leverage this knowledge and experience to accelerate innovation and opportunities for a sustainable future of aviation”, says Ineke van der Hee, programme director of the Action Programme for Hybrid Electric Aviation

Programme Start-up

This is a programme that deals with a high degree of uncertainty and requires major long-term capital investments in order to bring about major change and disruption to a legacy and mature industry. However, like most programmes, it has been successful in the initial steps of any clear programme set-up:  

  1. Programme Charter and Objectives: A clear message, objectives (as mentioned above) and in the case of the AHEV, a ‘Pledge’ (see the pledge below). 
  2. A clear approach to running the programme: In the case of the AHEV they established 7 pillars of successful innovation. These pillars developed with key partners (including Deloitte) set the approach for how they will run and segment the programme activities.  
  3. High level scope and framework for how they will drive this change and goal: Within AHEV the ‘zero-emission’ goal is divided into 3 clear roadmaps for the industry: (1) Ground based Operations, (2) General Aviation, and (3) Commercial Aviation. Each has a long-term plan outlook at three future milestones for the years 2030, 2050, and 2070 (see table below).
  4. Governance and partnerships: As this programme will have significant cross border and industrial implications, governance and partnerships are key in order to drive acceptance and change into the industry. The aviation industry is highly regulated, both on a national and an international level. Disruptive innovations need experimentation space to develop and thrive. Moreover, government funding is needed for research, development and demonstration before reaching a market-readiness level. 
Industry disruption: Hybrid Electric Aviation | Energy, Resources & Industrials | Deloitte Netherlands
The high-level timelines of the 3 scope areas for the AHEV (click on the image to enlarge)

The Pledge

In the Draft Agreement for Sustainable Aviation the following agreements where made regarding AHEV:

  • Elaborate on the ambitions, innovation strategy and measures. The AHEV Programme specifies the relevant technical and business/organizational developments, finances, environmental effects and the approach of the measures.
  • Work with a temporary governance during the creation of the Action Programme.
  • Realize the shared ambitions through strategic application of innovation and measures.
  • Offer insights in the way the Netherlands develops itself in the next ten years (2030) into one of the international frontrunners in the field of hybrid electric aviation.
  • Give a glimpse of the final goal: zero emission in 2070. 
  • Develop a concrete approach with agreements, projects and measures.
  • Provide insight into the required investments.

7 pillars of successful innovation (disruption) for the AHEV

The need and vision are set forth but innovation requires several key drivers to be in place in order to succeed. These drivers consist of the following:

  1. Starting the innovation from a societal task - Establishing a common mission and goal
    The AHEV is driven by the underlining vision: the societal task to reach zero emission. There is not yet a clear business case, the necessary technologies are not yet available and there are low margins and few competitors for aircraft manufacturers. Yet, from a societal task, action is needed right now.

  2. Develop the ecosystem
    To innovate, developing and increasing the ecosystem is vital. Cross-sectoral links will play a big part. Hybrid and electric propulsion are used in different fields of industry. The programme aims to learn from and cooperate with other industries, such as automotive and maritime. To stimulate cross-sectoral collaboration, student and industry challenges and events are initiated.

  3. Filling the innovation portfolio
    To create hyper awareness on radical new and disruptive technologies, a portfolio process will be set up. This is done by setting up a technology watch to know what is out there. The programme fills its own portfolio with projects and initiatives that focus on doing the right things in a coherent manner.

  4. International Cooperation
    To be part of the international frontrunners group, international cooperation between governments, knowledge institutes and the industry is of great importance. Moreover, effective cooperation on a European and international level provides leverage in larger European or international programmes in the field of innovation, sustainability and aviation.

  5. Creating a Market
    The government can stimulate the market through fiscal arrangements, subsidies, national procurement programmes or lowering take-off and landing fees. Moreover, the government can help existing companies and start-ups in the lower technology readiness levels to reach market readiness levels.

  6. Policy-making, Legitimization, Capturing
    To support an innovative ecosystem, stimulating policy and laws and legislations, aimed at advancing sustainable aviation are needed. The programme enables making an inventory of impeding or stimulating measures and aims to take away impediments where possible.

  7. Research, Testing, Experimenting
    For innovation to fly, it is necessary to create space and opportunities for fundamental and applied research, testing and experimentation. In close cooperation with all parties in the ecosystem, safe ways are sought to research, test and experiment with new and existing technologies. 

Next steps for the AHEV

  • Expand and broaden the partners and frontrunners for the AHEV programme, specifically focusing on governments, industry leaders and newcomers who can influence and lead the disruption of the industry.
  • Establish a clear portfolio capability and programme governance team to monitor, drive and continue to conceptualize and make the “zero-emission” aviation goal a reality.
  • Create a strong business case for hybrid electric aviation by thinking of radical new concepts, in aircraft design, operations and passenger services. 

More information?

Do you want to have a personal discussion about the 'zero-emision aviation industry' or the Action Programme for Hybrid Aviation? Feel free to reach out to our experts below. You can also read more about the programme here (in Dutch only). 

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