Airbus Debuts Hydrogen Designs For Zero-Emission Flight
European planemaker Airbus SE has unveiled designs for a hydrogen-powered aircraft as part of its mission to have a zero-carbon passenger plane in the air by 2035.
The company is studying three different designs as it faces pressure from French and German governments, its biggest shareholders, to develop a cleaner craft.
Over the next five years, Airbus will test its three designs and evaluate how best to move forward.
One approach includes a Turbofan jet that could seat up to 200 passengers, similar to Airbus’s existing A321neo narrow-body. This design would be able to fly more than 2,000 nautical miles with a modified gas-turbine engine that runs on hydrogen.
Liquid hydrogen would be stored and distributed through tanks located behind the rear pressure bulkhead, while hydrogen fuel cells would simultaneously create electric power that compliments the gas turbine.
Another design is for a smaller propeller plane intended to seat about 100 passengers and travel smaller distances. Like the Turbofan craft, the Turboprop would use modified gas-turbine engines, though with this design they would drive the six-bladed propellers to provide thrust.
The third is a ‘Blended-Wing Body’, shaped like a V, with 200 seats. The design opens up new options for hydrogen storage and distribution, along with cabin layout, though the company’s chief engineer, Jean-Brice Dumont, said it is the most challenging of the three designs.
Germany and France have committed a total of around €2.5 billion ($2.9 billion) toward cleaner propulsion, and hydrogen is becoming an increasing area of focus for Airbus as it evaluates technologies for emission-free flight, Bloomberg Green reports.
The planemaker explained there are different approaches to creating cleaner aircraft, but hydrogen is likely to be used in aerospace and other industries to meet climate-neutral targets.
Glenn Llewellyn, vice president of zero-emissions technology at Airbus, said in a statement:
As recently as five years ago, hydrogen propulsion wasn’t even on our radar as a viable emission-reduction technology pathway. But convincing data from other transport industries quickly changed all that.
Today, we’re excited by the incredible potential hydrogen offers aviation in terms of disruptive emissions reduction.
If everything goes according to the company’s plans, Airbus could consider moving ahead with the V-shaped model, otherwise it will likely choose one of the other two.
Airbus is hoping to get its first zero-emission passenger jet in service by the mid 2030s, though developing a hydrogen aircraft on that timeline will likely be a challenge because of the massive amounts of infrastructure and government investment required.
The company plans to launch several hydrogen demonstrator programs over the next few months, and it expects it will take another couple of years to choose suppliers and manufacturing sites before the program is scheduled for around 2028, and the aircraft comes into service in 2035.
Airbus estimates hydrogen has the potential to reduce aviation’s CO2 emissions by up to 50%.
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