Airbus eyes hydrogen-powered future with commercial aircraft concepts
According to a recent international study, aviation is responsible for 3.5 percent of all human activities that drive climate change. Airbus is looking to a cleaner future for the commercial aircraft industries, where hydrogen powers the (local) zero-emissions aircraft of tomorrow.
With today's reveal of three designs collectively known as the ZEROe concepts, the company is looking to be at the front of the effort to decarbonize the aviation industry, and it is aiming to bring the first hydrogen-fueled aircraft into service as soon as 2035.
"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," Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury said. "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."
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. Gas-turbine engines will be modified to run on liquid hydrogen instead of jet fuel, with the hydrogen stored in tanks located behind the rear pressure bulkhead.
Next up is a 100-passenger aircraft that will use turboprops instead of a turbofan design. Again, it will employ modified gas-turbine engines but is aimed at short hops, having an expected range of 1,000 nm (1,150 mi/1,852 km) or more.
The third concept offered up by Airbus is arguably the most visually striking. Designed to transport up to 200 passengers, this aircraft sports a "blended-wing body" that allows for numerous fuel storage and cabin layout configurations. It features a turbofan array to the rear, and is expected to be capable of flying over 2,000 nm.
Such environment-friendly flyers would certainly help to clean up our skies, but as we have noted previously, the production of hydrogen "can vary from the relatively green (electrolysis of fresh water using solar or wind-based energy) to the profoundly filthy (gasification of brown coal) – and the filthiest are by far the cheapest."
While there are promising signs for the production of clean, green hydrogen in the years ahead, Airbus also recognizes that new support infrastructures for an aviation industry fueled by hydrogen will be needed too – including scaling up hydrogen production, and investing in transport and refueling infrastructure.
"The transition to hydrogen, as the primary power source for these concept planes, will require decisive action from the entire aviation ecosystem," added Faury. "Together with the support from government and industrial partners we can rise up to this challenge to scale-up renewable energy and hydrogen for the sustainable future of the aviation industry."
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Our world already always have countless people keep burning to death alive (after traffic accidents), because of using gasoline (which easily starts fires) as fuel! (Diesel, for example, does NOT easily starts fires!)
Hydrogen, on the other hand, does NOT start fires but EXPLODES like a bomb!!!
If there are hydrogen vehicles around, do you seriously think their tanks would never leak or rapture, because of any kind of accident???
IMHO, any vehicle which battery does not provide enough power/range should/must use bio-diesel as (range extender) fuel!!!
(Bio-diesel can be produced from many kinds of crops/biomass & can be used by any regular diesel vehicles too!!!)
Burning fuel reduces the weight of fuel. Here it's stored way back at the rear.
Unfortunately, aircraft flyability is determined by fairly tight weight & balance demands. The CofG (centre of gravity) can usually vary over a quite small percentage of the chord (front to back mean width of the wing).
Stored H energy weighs.
These designs, with the possible exception of the blended body, would finish up too nose heavy to fly with minutes of T/O.
Unfortunately if you need energy, you will always have a potential for something to go wrong, although the Hindenburg was not using hydrogen as an energy source, its still the fact that you are dealing with something that is inflammable gas, compress it and it get worse.
All you can say is that whatever energy source you use the design has to be rigorous and safe. Even then things will go wrong. Today people die in aircraft fires, fewer per mile than in earlier days but the risk of human error, design fault or servicing will always be with us whether its Hydrogen or any other chemical fuel.
So it makes sense to see if it can be used, its certainly a clean fuel at its point of use.