Airbus Releases Plans for Zero-emission Planes

Picture of James Beagrie
James Beagrie
Last Updated: 21 April 2021

The plane of the future is one step nearer with the news that Airbus is developing three commercial zero-emission planes that could launch by 2035.

Airbus announced that all three prototypes will run on hydrogen rather than petroleum. The aeroplane manufacturing company will now put the concepts through a series of stringent tests to see which is the most efficient way of travelling long distances in the air without generating greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.

AirbusZEROe Blended Wing Body Concept (1)
AirbusZEROe Blended Wing Body Concept (1)

Airbus chief executive, Guillaume Faury, declared this as an “historic moment for the commercial aviation sector” and that it marks 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,” he said.

Hydrogen has been chosen as the jet fuel of the future as its only emission is water vapour, making it a clean fuel.

AirbusZEROe Turboprop Concept
AirbusZEROe Turboprop Concept

Three Zero-emission Plane Prototypes

The first of Airbus’ zero-emission plane prototypes uses a turbofan design with agas turbine engine modified to hydrogen. It could carry somewhere between 120 and 200 passengers a distance of 2,000 miles, according to Airbus.

The second prototype will adopt a turboprop design and will also have a modified gas turbine engine, but would only carry 100 passengers a distance of 1,000 miles, so would be preferable for shorter flights.

Airbus is also developing a larger plane where the body will blend into its wings permitting several options for the storage of hydrogen and the layout of the cabin, much along the lines of the flying V-plane currently being developed by KLM.

Grazia Vittadini, Airbus’ chief technology officer, said the final concept is likely to be decided by 2025, adding that the manufacturer might develop smaller electric planes in the future.

A Carbon Free Future?

The aviation sector has come under increasing pressure from environmentalists for its contribution to climate change. The growth of the No-Fly movement or Flyfgskam has been a major challenge to the industry.

However the transformation to a carbon free aviation sector demands more than a change in the way that planes are fuelled.

According to Airbus, hydrogen planes would need hydrogen transport and refuelling infrastructure, as well as commitment from governments to permit airlines to retire their older, less environmentally friendly aircraft sooner than envisaged.

AirbusZEROe Turboprop Concept
AirbusZEROe Turboprop Concept

“The transition to hydrogen, as the primary power source for these concept planes, will require decisive action from the entire aviation ecosystem,” said 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.”

Article courtesy: Travel Begins At 40

get in touch

View our privacy policy for details on the use of your personal data.

Like this article? Share it!