Airbus reveals 'zero emissions' hydrogen-fuelled aircraft for 2035

Marco Green
September 22, 2020

"The exceptionally wide interior opens up multiple options for hydrogen storage and distribution", says Airbus, which proposes powering the craft with two hybrid hydrogen turbofan engines fueled by hydrogen tanks beneath the wings.

At this stage, as you would expect, details are scant but we do know that one of the concepts is based around a turbofan design that's expected to have a range of over 2,000 nautical miles (2,300 mi/3,700 km) and will be capable of carrying between 120 and 200 passengers. Similar to the MAVERIC concept launched earlier this year, the blended-wing design, which is envisioned as a step after the turboprop and turbofan ideas, would use hydrogen fuel cells to power eight electric motors.

Three concepts for the world's first zero-emission commercial aircraft have been unveiled by Airbus.

The second concept calls for a turboprop design, and would use a modified gas engine and carry up to 100 passengers 1,000 nautical miles (roughly 1,850 km) - for short-distance trips.

Among the three designs, the most visually striking is the Blended-Wing Body (BWB), Airbus' newest take on the oft-explored, but seldom-implemented concept of a wide monobody design that integrates the wings and fuselage into a single shape.

All three concepts each represent a different approach to achieving zero emission flight and rely on hydrogen as a primary power source - an option which Airbus believes holds exceptional promise as a clean aviation fuel. Airbus estimates the Turboprop's range at 1,000 nautical miles. The same reports says Airbus is eyeing a 2028 production start to begin building the planes themselves, after spending the initial years of the program developing and testing the hydrogen systems and negotiating partnerships with manufacturers. The aviation industry is under increasing pressure to adopt environmentally friendly technology, particularly following the trend of "flight-shaming" that erupted in Europe past year.

Airbus reveals 'zero emissions' hydrogen-fuelled aircraft for 2035
Airbus reveals 'zero emissions' hydrogen-fuelled aircraft for 2035

Major investment in refuelling infrastructure at airports would be required for commercial hydrogen-powered planes to be viable.

"These concepts will help us explore and mature the design and layout of the world's first climate-neutral, zero-emission commercial aircraft, which we aim to put into service by 2035", Mr Faury said.

"The transition to hydrogen, as the primary power source for these concept planes, will require decisive action from the entire aviation ecosystem".

"Together with the support from the government and industrial partners, we can rise to this challenge to scale up renewable energy and hydrogen for the sustainable future of the aviation industry", he said. It would also need support from governments for increased funding of the research and technology, digitalisation and mechanisms that encourage the use of sustainable fuels.

It said its hydrogen-fuelled passenger planes could be in service by 2035.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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