Econostrum | Economic News in the Mediterranean

Airbus promises the first commercial flight of a hydrogen-powered aircraft in 2035

Written by Frédéric Dubessy on Monday, September 21st 2020 à 16:47 | Read 517 times

Airbus is developing several hydrogen-powered models (photo: Airbus)
Airbus is developing several hydrogen-powered models (photo: Airbus)
FRANCE. Airbus revealed, Monday 21 September 2020, its strategy to develop a hydrogen-powered commercial aircraft in 2035. Its teams are working on three concepts: a 200-seater aircraft with a conventional configuration and a range of 3,500 kilometres (the Turbofan), a 100-passenger propeller aircraft for shorter journeys (Turboprop) and a more futuristic flying wing offering 200 seats (Blended-Wing Body - BWB). These three tracks of the new ZERO (for zero emissions) programme "prefigure what the first zero-emission Airbus could look like", comments Guillaume Faury, Executive Chairman of Airbus, in an interview with the newspaper Le Parisien/Aujourd'hui en France. "It will take us another five years to put several technologies in competition, mature them and choose the best one for the aircraft. It will then take us two years to find suppliers, industrial sites, etc... So the programme is scheduled for around 2028," he says.

If the first prototype is presented at the end of the 2020s, we will have to wait until 2035 to see the first commercial flight take off.

The group already uses hydrogen propulsion for its satellites and the Ariane rocket. "Developing a decarbonised aircraft does not require any major technological breakthrough," stresses Guillaume Faury.


The differences between the three aircraft will concern the integration of the liquid hydrogen storage and distribution system

All three planes are hydrogen hybrid planes. "They are powered by modified gas turbine engines that burn liquid hydrogen as fuel. At the same time, they also use hydrogen fuel cells to create electrical energy to supplement the gas turbine, resulting in a highly efficient hybrid electric propulsion system," Airbus says. "However, each option has a slightly different approach to integrating the liquid hydrogen storage and distribution system. Airbus engineers have designed integration solutions that carefully consider the challenges and opportunities of each type of aircraft," the statement continued.

"Hydrogen has a different volumetric energy density than paraffin, which is why we need to study other storage options and aircraft architectures than those that already exist," explains Jean-Brice Dumont, EVP Engineering at Airbus. "This means that the visual appearance of our future zero-emission aircraft will change. These three configurations provide us with exciting options for further exploration".

The French government has already announced in June 2020 that it will finance €1.5 billion of this carbon-neutral aircraft project as part of its plan to support the aeronautics sector by 2022.

"Five years ago, hydrogen propulsion was not even on our radars as a viable technological path to reduce emissions. Today, we are excited about the incredible potential that hydrogen offers aviation in terms of reducing emissions," notes Glenn Llewellyn, Airbus Vice President for Zero Emissions Aircraft. According to internal calculations, says a press release from the aircraft manufacturer, "hydrogen has the potential to reduce aviation's CO2 emissions by up to 50%".


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