Airbus unveils concepts for world’s first zero-emission commercial aircraft

Airbus unveils three zero-emission aircraft concepts

Hydrogen use would require some major design changes for aircraft, as the fuel requires about four times the storage space of kerosene for the same energy content.

Airbus has unveiled its plans for bringing the world's first zero-emission commercial aircraft into service by 2035.

Airbus claimed its turbofan design could carry up to 200 passengers more than 2,000 miles, while a turboprop concept would have a 50% lower capacity and range. It is envisaged the liquid hydrogen fuel would be stored and distributed via tanks located behind the rear pressure bulkhead.

Hydrogen is becoming an increasing area of focus for Airbus as it evaluates technologies for emission-free flight. At the heart of these three concepts is hydrogen power, and show deployed in a conventional turbofan twin, a turboprop twin, and a futuristic lifting body transport.

The turboprop design would be capable of carrying up to 100 passengers and travelling about 1,000 nautical miles. "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 Faury, in the press release.

Even though all three concepts use liquid hydrogen as fuel, they employ two different means of propulsion.

"If hydrogen technology development progresses at the expected rate, Airbus' highly anticipated zero-emission commercial aircraft is expected to roll off the assembly line for entry-into-service by 2035", the company explains, indicating just the first model-a near lookalike for a current Airbus model.

Airbus unveils three zero-emission aircraft concepts | News

While the Air Transport Action Group notes that jet aircraft are 80% more efficient than in the 1960s, around 80% of aviation-related emissions are emitted by long haul flights over 1,500km for which there is no other alternative form of transport. Created to transport up to 200 passengers, this aircraft sports a "blended-wing body" that allows for numerous fuel storage and cabin layout configurations.

"The exceptionally wide interior opens up multiple options for hydrogen storage and distribution".

Airbus' Chief Executive Guillaume Faury said the "historic moment for the commercial aviation sector" marks the "most important transition this industry has ever seen", The Guardian reports.

Instead of relying on the usual layout of an airliner, the French opted for a blended-wing body design.

"Together with the support from the government and industrial partners, we can rise to this challenge to scale up renewable energy and hydrogen for the sustainable future of the aviation industry", he said.

The success of any such program would depend on infrastructure at airports and support from governments to fund development, as well as incentives for airlines to retire older aircraft, Airbus said. The company's engineers have just five years to "mature all the required hydrogen technologies" before the ZEROe aircraft programme officially launches in 2025.



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