By Joseph Chalfant

United Airlines and Mesa Airlines have committed to purchasing electric planes for short-haul flights.

United’s holding company and Mesa each agreed to buy 100 planes a piece from Swedish aircraft manufacturer Heart Aerospace. Heart is currently working on a 19-seat electric plane that could reduce the carbon footprint of air travel, according to the Wall Street Journal.

While the plane has not completed any flights, the companies predict that the aircraft, dubbed the ES-19, could enter service in 2026. The new planes should have a range of 250 miles, according to Reuters.

United believes that the move will expand the air travel market.

“With a lower cost profile you can bring back more smaller markets than were possible with the higher cost of a jet-fueled aircraft,” said United Airlines Ventures president Mike Leskinen, according to Reuters. “We don’t want to wait for 50 seats, 75 seats, 125-seat aircraft. We want to get involved now by investing in a company that we think has a big technological lead with the hopes of over time working with them to move the size of the aircraft to larger gauge.”

Anders Forslund, the CEO of Heart Aerospace, said that the technology for electric flight already exists. Proposed designs will utilize the same technology that powers electric cars and has already proven its efficacy in tests. His ambitious effort has gotten the green light from the Bill Gates-backed fund Breakthrough Energy Ventures, which recently gave Heart $35 million, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Forslund believes that the demand for small aircraft still exists, but technological limitations have kept them out of the market.

“People didn’t stop flying 19-seaters because they couldn’t fly far enough, they couldn’t pay for the maintenance of turboprop jet motors on small planes,” Forslund said according to the Chicago Tribune.

United is taking an all-around approach to expanding commercial flight technology. According to Forbes, the company is hoping to add 15 supersonic passenger jets to its fleet by the end of 2029. They also agreed to spend $1 billion on flying taxis to reduce carbon emissions. The air taxi endeavor should come into service soon after production begins in 2023, according to the Wall Street Journal.