Airbus Launches Hydrogen-Powered ZEROe Initiative
September 21, 202022
Airbus rolled back the curtain on its three-ship ZEROe program,
intended to bring “zero emissions” aircraft to service in just 15
years. 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.
“This is a historic moment for the commercial aviation sector as a
whole and we intend to play a leading role in 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,” said Guillaume Faury, Airbus CEO.
“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.”
According to Airbus, one of the two more conventional designs seating
120-200 passengers and resembling a modern turbofan airliner will have
a range of 2,000+ NM and be “capable of operating transcontinentally
and 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.” In its presentation, Airbus also noted that hydrogen can be
used to create electricity through fuel cells, and that it would use
that as a source to power electric motors.
The turboprop-appearing regional transport will carry up to 100
passengers “using a turboprop engine instead of a turbofan and also
powered by hydrogen combustion in modified gas-turbine engines, which
would be capable of traveling more than 1,000 nautical miles, making
it a perfect option for short-haul trips,” according to Airbus.
The futuristic “blended-wing body” proposal can carry up to 200
passengers “with a range similar to that of the turbofan concept. The
exceptionally wide fuselage opens up multiple options for hydrogen
storage and distribution, and for cabin layout,” says Airbus. Similar
to the MAVERIC concept launched earlier this year, the blended-wing
design, which is envisioned as a step after the turboprop and turbofan
ideas, would use hydrogen fuel cells to power eight electric motors.
“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 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.”
Airbus says it will have to determine specific technologies in the
very near term. A ground demonstrator of the hydrogen-fueled engines
is expected next year, with flight tests starting in 2023. The company
admits that infrastructure will be a challenge, and expects
contributions from government entities to help pick up the slack.