Barke, Alexander; Thies, Christian; Spengler, Thomas S.
Due to the use of fossil kerosene, global air traffic causes large quantities of climate-damaging greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and health-damaging emissions such as nitrogen oxides (NOx). Based on current studies, the aviation sector will become one of the main emitters of CO2 and NOx in the long term. To counteract this development, the Flightpath 2050 strategy aims to reduce CO2 by 75% and NOx by 95% by the year 2050. To achieve these ambitious reduction goals, novel propulsion concepts are being developed. For short-haul flights, electric aircraft based on all-solid-state batteries (ASSB) appear as a promising solution. However, ASSBs are associated with negative environmental and socio-economic impacts in their supply chain, leading to a shift in problems. Therefore, a comprehensive analysis along the entire life cycle is required to quantify the potential of electric aircraft relative to conventional aircraft. This paper aims to provide a life cycle-oriented sustainability assessment of conventional and electric aircraft for short-haul flights. In a cradle-to-grave analysis, the two aircraft types are compared and assessed regarding environmental and socio-economic impacts. Particular attention is directed towards the use of sustainable aviation fuels and renewable electricity as alternatives to fossil energy carriers. The results of the analysis show that electric aircraft can be advantageous over the life cycle if the batteries have a sufficient service life and are charged with renewable electricity. However, high negative impacts occur in production and end-of-life due to the required battery system. Besides, the results also show that sustainable aviation fuels can be used to reduce the environmental impact of conventional aircraft in the short term. Therefore, both solutions will be required to achieve the short- and long-term reduction goals of Flightpath 2050.