Airbus promises that the new ZEROe fleet of hydrogen-powered aircraft will be operational by 2035.
According to statements by Guillaume Faury, executive director of Airbus Group, the three new concepts of clean aircraft foreshadow a “historic moment for the commercial aviation sector.” The use of hydrogen as a substitute for fossil fuels has “the potential to significantly reduce the climate impact of aviation”.
The new concept of emission-free aircraft is based on the hope of finding ways to produce large amounts of hydrogen, using renewable or low-carbon sources as a basis.
Also considered by the automotive industry, the use of pressurized hydrogen in the role of non-polluting fuel has encountered several logistical problems, related to its production and storage. Used for automotive applications, hydrogen is a considerably more expensive source of energy than battery-based electricity, the cost per kilometer being comparable to the use of fossil fuels. The reason, or rather the reasons, are numerous inefficiencies / technological losses encountered throughout the production, transport and supply chain of pressurized cylinders on board cars.
Why hydrogen planes?
Compared to Lithium batteries, the use of pressurized hydrogen tanks, or liquid hydrogen obtained by cryogenization, has the great advantage of the much higher density of stored energy, compared to the weight transported. While an electrically powered aircraft would be hampered by batteries, limiting transport capacity and distance covered, the concept proposed by Airbus promises autonomy of up to 3200 kilometers and space for 200 passengers plus luggage.
The secret lies in a new turboprop design adapted to run directly with hydrogen in gaseous form, substituting the kerosene obtained by refining petroleum products.
The hydrogen propulsion system could also be used in combination with a new fuselage design, called a “blended-wing body”, designed to maximize transport capacity without sacrificing aerodynamic efficiency.
The transition to hydrogen, as a primary source of energy, will require decisive action on the part of the entire air ecosystem, ”said Mr Faury. “Together with the support of government and industry partners, we can meet this challenge of expanding renewable energy for the sustainable future of the aerospace industry.”
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