Electric planes may be the future of United Airlines, as the company plans to use them for short hops in the near future.

United Airlines has been working on future-proofing their fleet in the last few years, with major investments towards net-zero carbon emissions in their operations. In 2021, the airline ordered 100 electric airplanes from Heart Aviation, and 200 “flying taxis” by Eve Air Mobility. While none of those orders have hit the assembly line yet, the company has high hopes for electric short-range flights by 2030.

“Initially we want to fly on routes that are 200 miles or less,” Mike Leskinen, president of United Airlines Ventures, the carrier’s in-house venture capital arm, said during a video interview at CNBC’s ESG Impact Virtual Conference on Thursday. As the technology improves, aircraft will have a range of 250 miles or 300 miles, Leskinen added. Those ranges would include flights like Los Angeles to Las Vegas, New York to Chicago, or Seattle to Portland.

Like everything involving aircraft, these plans are many years out. It takes between 9-18 years for new lines of aircraft to be developed, refined, approved by the FAA and manufactured. Heart hopes to have its first planes approved to fly by 2028, and Eve is working towards a 2026 date for their VTOL van-sized electric air taxis.

According to Leskinen, Chicago O’Hare International Airport and Denver International Airport are being eyed as hubs for this kind of short-range travel with electric planes. Both have access to good, stable grid power, which will be vitally important to the success of an all electric fleet.

United Airlines isn’t flying solo here. Air Canada has also pre-ordered 30 electric planes from Heart Aviation, and JetBlue, American Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic have all placed orders with EVTOL makers like Eve.

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