The significant carbon emissions of jet airplanes are coming under scrutiny as evidence of climate change continues to grow. About half of all air cargo moves in the “belly-space” of passenger jet liners. The other half is carried in former passenger aircraft that have been converted to cargo service. As the oldest technology, these dedicated jetliners are the most polluting.
Jet airplanes are about six times faster than a cargo airship, but speed is not always as important as cost in freight transport. A cargo airship could provide three-day service over the Pacific and two-day service across the Atlantic. Not only would the freight rate be much less, using hydrogen fuel cells an electrically-powered aircraft could do this with zero-carbon emissions.
BASI is exploring the economic size for electrically powered airships to carry freight intercontinentally. Preliminary analysis suggests that a 125-tonne lift airship could carry freight across oceans at $0.20/tonne-kilometre (~$0.30/ton-mile). Given the opportunity for dimensional pricing, there could be even more savings for bulky, low weight cargoes.
With the enormous disparity in speed between current air and ocean offerings there are many markets that would welcome a middle alternative. As detailed below, if the shipment urgently needs to be there tomorrow the airplane is the way to go. However, if it only needs to be there sometime this week, at zero carbon and a fraction of the cost, many will opt for the airship.
Please reach out to the BASI team via our contact page for more information. We would be glad to provide more information on how BASI can build a transportation system to meet your needs.