Airbus has revealed three concepts for the world’s first zero-emission commercial aircraft which could enter service by 2035.
These concepts rely on hydrogen as a primary power source – an option which Airbus believes holds exceptional promise as a clean aviation fuel and is likely to be a solution for aerospace and many other industries to meet their climate-neutral targets.
“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,” said Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury.
The three concepts – all codenamed “ZEROe” – for a first climate neutral zero-emission commercial aircraft include:
- A turbofan design (120-200 passengers) with a range of 2,000+ nautical miles, capable of operating transcontinentally and powered by a modified gas-turbine engine running on hydrogen, rather than jet fuel, through combustion.
- A turboprop design (up to 100 passengers) using a turboprop engine instead of a turbofan and also powered by hydrogen combustion in modified gas-turbine engines, which would be capable of traveling more than 1,000 nautical miles, making it a perfect option for short-haul trips.
- A “blended-wing body” design (up to 200 passengers) concept in which the wings merge with the main body of the aircraft with a range similar to that of the turbofan concept.
In order to tackle these challenges, airports will require significant hydrogen transport and refueling infrastructure to meet the needs of day-to-day operations.
Support from governments will also be key to meet these ambitious objectives with increased funding for research & technology, digitalisation, and mechanisms that encourage the use of sustainable fuels.