Airbus has recently unveiled three concepts for its first zero-emission commercial aircraft. This aircraft could begin operations by 2035.
Each of these concepts symbolise a different approach to achieving a zero-emission flight. By exploring various technology routes and aerodynamic configuration, the aircraft will lead the way in the decarbonisation of the aviation industry
The concepts rely on hydrogen as the primary power source
Airbus has chosen hydrogen as an option as it believes it is a clean aviation fuel and a solution to meet climate-neutral goals.
Guillaume Faury, Chief Executive, Airbus, said, “This is a historic moment for the commercial aviation sector as a whole. 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.”
The concepts are codenamed ‘ZEROe’ and they include –
- A turbofan design for 120-200 passengers with a range of 2,000+ nautical miles. It is capable of operating transcontinentally. It is powered by a modified gas-turbine engine running on hydrogen, rather than jet fuel, through combustion. The liquid hydrogen will be stored and distributed via tanks located behind the rear pressure bulkhead.
- A turboprop design for up to 100 passengers using a turboprop engine instead of a turbofan. It would be capable of travelling more than 1,000 nautical miles, making it a perfect option for short-haul trips.
- A blended-wing body design (above) for up to 200 passengers. These wings will merge with the main body of the aircraft with a range similar to that of the turbofan concept. The wide fuselage opens up multiple options for hydrogen storage and distribution, and for cabin layout.
Faury added, “These concepts will help us explore the design of the world’s first climate-neutral, zero-emission commercial aircraft. 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 scale-up renewable energy and hydrogen for the sustainable future of the aviation industry.”
In order to tackle these challenges, airports will need significant hydrogen transport. Apart from this, they will need refueling infrastructure to meet the requirements of day-to-day operations. Furthermore, support from governments with increased funding for research and technology will encourage the use of sustainable fuels.