The electric aircraft industry is an odd one to follow. A lot of superlatives are thrown around, but it’s still a baby industry with nothing really in commercial operation. Airbus is throwing in another superlative, and I have to admit that I find the claim a bit dubious.
Airbus wants to develop the “world’s first zero-emission commercial aircraft,” but its timeline for doing so is “by 2035.” Electric commercial aircraft aren’t going to be here next year, but I will be shocked if commercial operations don’t begin well before 2035.
Airbus is leaning on hydrogen for this plan. It has three concept aircraft in mind for inaugural commercial electric aircraft, but all three of them rely on hydrogen.
“Airbus has revealed three concepts for the world’s first zero-emission commercial aircraft which could enter service by 2035. These concepts, each represent a different approach to achieving zero-emission flight, exploring various technology pathways and aerodynamic configurations in order to support the company’s ambition of leading the way in the decarbonization of the entire aviation industry,” the company notes.
While we here at CleanTechnica have long seen no future for hydrogen in passenger road transport, or any road transport, we remain open minded about its potential for aircraft and marine shipping. Though, I can’t say I’d put money on a hydrogen aircraft startup or initiative. Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury has a different opinion, and I admit that he knows tremendously more about aircraft technology than I ever will.
“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,” Faury states.
Here’s a closer look at the three “ZEROe” concepts:
One big requirement to get these vehicles into production and operation is for hydrogen fueling infrastructure to be built out for such aircraft. Airbus argues that the industry will need much financial support from governments as well to get off the ground.
Where to from here? Well, there’s a long way to go, but the idea now is to develop these concept aircraft further and hopefully get at least one of them to a pilot phase. “These concepts will help us explore and mature the design and layout of the world’s first climate-neutral, zero-emission commercial aircraft, which we aim to put into service by 2035,” said Guillaume Faury. “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 rise up to this challenge to scale-up renewable energy and hydrogen for the sustainable future of the aviation industry.”
Images courtesy of Airbus