- Joe Breitfeller
Airbus Unveils Hydrogen Powered Zero Emission Engine
Airbus has today revealed that they are developing a hydrogen-powered fuel cell engine, with the propulsion system considered as a potential solution to power zero-emission aircraft that will enter service by 2035.
On Wednesday (November 30, 2022), Airbus announced that they are developing a hydrogen-powered fuel cell engine, which will be considered as a possible solution to power zero-emissions aircraft to enter service by 2035. The company will start flight testing the fuel cell engine architecture onboard their ZEROe demonstrator Airbus A380 MSN1 test aircraft by the middle of the decade. The aircraft is currently being modified to carry liquid hydrogen tanks and the associated distribution systems.
In Wednesday’s announcement, Airbus’ Vice President – Zero-Emission Aircraft, Glenn Llewellyn, said,
“Fuel cells are a potential solution to help us achieve our zero-emission ambition and we are focused on developing and testing this technology to understand if it is feasible and viable for a 2035 entry-into-service of a zero-emission aircraft. At scale, and if the technology targets were achieved, fuel cell engines may be able to power a one hundred passenger aircraft with a range of approximately 1,000 nautical miles. By continuing to invest in this technology we are giving ourselves additional options that will inform our decisions on the architecture of our future ZEROe aircraft, the development of which we intend to launch in the 2027-2028 timeframe.”
Hydrogen can be used in several ways as fuel for aircraft propulsion. First, via hydrogen combustion in a gas turbine, and second, by using fuel cells to convert hydrogen into electricity to power a propeller engine. Hydrogen gas turbines can also be coupled with fuel cells instead of batteries in a hybrid-electric architecture. When stacked, hydrogen fuel cells can produce power at scale. Additionally, engines powered by hydrogen fuel cells don’t produce NOx emissions or contrails.