- Joe Breitfeller
Airbus Unveils Three New Zero-Emission Hydrogen Powered Concept Aircraft
Airbus announced on Monday the unveiling of three new zero-emission hydrogen powered concept aircraft which could enter service by 2035. The company believes that the use of hydrogen as a primary power source holds promise for achieving climate-neutral targets.
Today (September 21, 2020), Airbus revealed three new design concepts for the world’s first zero-emission aircraft which could enter service by 2035. Each concept represents a different approach to achieve the goal of climate-neutral commercial flight through various technology pathways and aerodynamic configurations. The concepts, which have been codenamed ‘ZEROe’ include a turbofan, turboprop and blended-wing design, each of which will rely on hydrogen as their primary power source. In Monday’s announcement, Airbus’ CEO, Guillaume Faury said,
“This is a historic moment for the commercial aviation sector as a whole 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 ambition to drive a 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. 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. 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 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.”
In a separate announcement today (September 21, 2020) Airbus expanded on their ZEROe concept aircraft focusing on the disruptive zero-emission technology of hydrogen powered propulsion. Speaking on the potential of hydrogen, Airbus’ VP – Zero Emission Aircraft, Glen Llewellyn, said,
“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.”
By Airbus’ calculations, hydrogen has the potential to reduce aviation’s CO2 emissions by up to 50 percent. The two broad types of hydrogen propulsion in aviation include hydrogen combustion and hydrogen fuel cells . All three of the company’s ZEROe concepts are hydrogen-hybrid aircraft, meaning that they will be powered by modified gas-turbine engines that burn liquid hydrogen as fuel. Simultaneously, they will utilize hydrogen fuel cells to create electrical power complementing the gas turbine. That said, each concept uses a slightly different approach in integrating the liquid hydrogen storage and distribution system. In the turbofan and turboprop concepts, the liquid-hydrogen storage and distribution system are located behind the rear bulkhead, while in the blended-wing design, the liquid hydrogen storage tanks are stored underneath the wings.
As previously mentioned, Airbus expects an entry-into-service for their zero-emission aircraft by 2035, which means the ZEROe program will have to be launched by 2025. The current time frame gives the company five years to mature the required hydrogen technologies. According to Airbus, over the coming months, several demonstrator programs will test hydrogen fuel cell and hydrogen combustion technologies, with a full-scale prototype estimated to arrive by the end of the decade.