Aircraft

Airbus eyes hydrogen-powered future with commercial aircraft concepts

Airbus eyes hydrogen-powered f...
Airbus hopes to put the first (local) zero-emission aircraft into service by 2035
Airbus hopes to put the first (local) zero-emission aircraft into service by 2035
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A hydrogen-fueled blended wing concept allows for multiple fuel storage and cabin configurations
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A hydrogen-fueled blended wing concept allows for multiple fuel storage and cabin configurations
A turbofan passenger aircraft capable of carrying up to 200 for more than 2,000 nautical miles
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A turbofan passenger aircraft capable of carrying up to 200 for more than 2,000 nautical miles
Pitched as being ideal for short hops, the turboprop concept can carry up to 100 passengers for over 1,000 nautical miles
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Pitched as being ideal for short hops, the turboprop concept can carry up to 100 passengers for over 1,000 nautical miles
Airbus hopes to put the first (local) zero-emission aircraft into service by 2035
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Airbus hopes to put the first (local) zero-emission aircraft into service by 2035
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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."

A turbofan passenger aircraft capable of carrying up to 200 for more than 2,000 nautical miles
A turbofan passenger aircraft capable of carrying up to 200 for more than 2,000 nautical miles

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.

Pitched as being ideal for short hops, the turboprop concept can carry up to 100 passengers for over 1,000 nautical miles
Pitched as being ideal for short hops, the turboprop concept can carry up to 100 passengers for over 1,000 nautical miles

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.

A hydrogen-fueled blended wing concept allows for multiple fuel storage and cabin configurations
A hydrogen-fueled blended wing concept allows for multiple fuel storage and cabin configurations

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."

Source: Airbus

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10 comments
anthony88
Unfortunately, governments can't see beyond the next election, so expecting them to make decisions for the future means these ideas will not be implemented. Governments today will not pave the way towards an ecosystem that integrates the required infrastructure for these ideas from Airbus.
FB36
ANY HYDROGEN VEHICLE IS A HUGE MISTAKE (IMHO)!!!

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!!!)
guzmanchinky
I'd have to somewhat agree with FB36, even though Hydrogen doesn't readily explode (as I once thought as well) the use of bio fuel jet fuel seems like the easier path forward, maybe?
Expanded Viewpoint
What is with this pipe dream (a hallucination caused by drug use) of "zero emissions" from our means of transportation that we keep on hearing about? Unless someone has discovered a hidden mountain stream that flows liquid Hydrogen, or some tree that has liquid Hydrogen for its sap, there's not going to be any such thing! It's not even "reduced emissions" when you consider all of the additional steps that have to be added into the equation! But yet people keep on believing that we're going to be able to get from point A to point B for free!! What's next? Is someone going to try to sell us on the idea of bottled sunshine??

Randy
Edward Vix
Hydrogen in an aircraft! Oh, the humanity!
nick101
There is a simple, unavoidable, fact about hydrogen that you cannot get around; it is the lightest element with the lowest energy density of all the elements. To make it usable you must compress it to the point where you are using 2-3 times as much energy to compress it than you would ever get out of it. It's also hard to store. The hydrogen future will always be "One day soon" I worked for a company that built electrolysis systems, it was one of the "Hydrogen Future's" brightest stars, but then it declined and went bust.
PassingBy2
As a retired RPT driver, these 'designs' are almost certainly a product of the marketing manager's children, prettied up by artists.
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.
>sigh<
Brian M
Why does the word 'Hindenburg' keep springing into my mind as I read the article?

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.
michael_dowling
There is already a company test flying H2 powered fuel cell aircraft: https://robbreport.com/motors/aviation/hydrogen-engine-future-aviation-2922721/
windykites
Ammonia is a possible fuel for planes. NH3. By-products Nitrogen and H20. Can be used in cars as well.