Airbus wants fuel cell planes by 2035 – HY4 receives flight permit
Discussions regarding hydrogen as an optional, exceedingly lightweight aviation fuel are not at all new. One major drawback in switching from kerosene to another energy carrier is the corresponding, complete infrastructure overhaul. Due cause for hesitation. Regardless, some companies are seriously pushing to put hydrogen back on the agenda. Notably, last September, Toulouse-based Airbus announced the intention to bring to market a fuel cell-powered aircraft “by 2035.” Many other businesses have also presented plans to launch zero-emission aviation.
As part of ZEROe, Airbus showcases three different concept aircraft, each following another approach to decarbonizing the industry. The first uses a Turboprop propeller engine capable of carrying up to 100 passengers on short-distance flights of less than 1,000 nautical miles. The second is Turbofan, designed for transcontinental flights, seats 120 to 200 people, traveling over 2,000 nautical miles. These two prototypes are powered by modified gas turbine engines that draw liquid hydrogen from tanks installed behind their rear pressure bulkheads.
Sporting a much more futuristic look, the third prototype has more in common with military stealth bombers than civilian planes. It has a blended wing body, with no clear dividing line between the wings and the aircraft’s mid-section. This one, too, could carry up to 200 people. Its distinct design allows engineers several options for cabin and tank installation.
Talking to French daily newspaper Le Parisien, Airbus chief executive Guillaume Faury conceded that all three aircraft were still in early development, requiring many more years before coming to market. He said they would be the “world’s first climate-neutral, zero-emission commercial aircraft.” Airbus wants to have them ready by 2035 and calls on political decision-makers and business leaders to partner up: “The transition to hydrogen as the primary power source for these concept planes will require decisive action from the entire aviation ecosystem. With government and industrial partners’ support, we can rise to the challenge, up-scaling renewable energy and hydrogen for a sustainable aviation industry future.”
“This is a historic moment for commercial aviation and we intend to play a leading role in the most important transition this industry has ever seen. The concepts we unveil today offer the world a glimpse of our ambitious, bold vision for the future of zero-emission flight […] I strongly believe that the use of hydrogen – both in synthetic fuels and as a primary power source for commercial aircraft – has the potential to significantly reduce aviation’s climate impact.”
Guillaume Faury, Airbus chief executive
Revamping airport infrastructure requires, above all, government support. Likewise, increasing research and digitalization funds could expedite retiring less eco-friendly planes.
… Read more in the latest H2-International e-Journal, Feb. 2021