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Airbus Announces Plans to Test Hydrogen-Fueled Engine on A380 Jet

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Photo: CNN

 

French aircraft manufacturer Airbus may very soon launch the world’s first zero-emission commercial aircraft by 2035.

Airbus has announced plans to test hydrogen fuel technology on a modified version of its A380 jetliners. The A380 jetliners had been discontinued last year.

CFM International, a joint venture between GE and Safran Aircraft Engines, has also been announced to partner with Airbus on the hydrogen demonstration program.

To trial propulsion technology for a future hydrogen aircraft, the plane manufacturer will use an “A380 flying testbed fitted with liquid hydrogen tanks.”

 

‘Flight laboratory’

In a video posted on the Airbus YouTube channel, vice president for zero-emission aircraft at Airbus, Glenn Llewellyn, says, “Our ambition is to take this (A380) aircraft and add a stub in between the rear doors at the upper level. That stub will have on the end of it a hydrogen-powered gas turbine.”

Llewellyn explains that the aircraft will also be fitted with hydrogen storage and hydrogen distribution. The distribution will feed the engine with the chemical element. 

The aim of the “flight laboratory,” Llewellyn says, is to discover more about hydrogen propulsion systems in real ground and flight conditions. This enables Airbus to pursue its plans for a zero-emission aircraft in just over a decade.

If everything goes to plan, test flights may take place in 2026. This announcement comes over a year after Airbus revealed three hydrogen-based concepts under the ZEROe banner. 

In a statement, Sabine Klauke, chief technical officer for Airbus, said, “This is the most significant step undertaken at Airbus to usher in a new era of hydrogen-powered flight since the unveiling of our ZEROe concepts back in September 2020.”

“By leveraging the expertise of American and European engine manufacturers to make progress on hydrogen combustion technology, this international partnership sends a clear message that our industry is committed to making zero-emission flight a reality.”

 

Possible guilt-free flying

Commercial airlines’ global fuel consumption rose up to 95 billion gallons in 2019, and aviation, in general, generates 2.8% of global CO2 emissions.

As a result, the global aviation industry has promised to reduce emissions to half of their 2005 level by 2050.

Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) is the goal now as many air carriers seek to reduce the environmental impact of flying. For example, British Airways’ parent company IAG revealed plans to use SAF with 10% of its flight by 2030. Similarly, United Airlines completed its first successful flight with 100% SAF last year.

On the other hand, Airbus continues to bet on hydrogen, which may reduce aviation’s carbon emissions by up to 50%.

“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,” explains Guillaume Faury, chief executive for Airbus.

On the other hand, aviation firm ZeroAvia is now developing a 19-seater aircraft that will operate commercial hydrogen-electric flights between London and Rotterdam set to launch in 2024.

Founder & Editor-In-Chief of Kivo Daily Magazine

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