Airbus' new facility to research cryogenic fuel systems for next-generation hydrogen aircraft - CNBC

Airbus’ new facility to research cryogenic fuel systems for next-generation hydrogen aircraft – CNBC

A model of one of Airbus’ Zero concept aircraft, photographed in November 2021. The company said it wants to develop a “zero-emissions commercial aircraft” by 2035.

Giuseppe Cacas | Afp | Getty Images

Airbus is launching a UK-based facility focused on hydrogen technologies, a move that marks the company’s latest attempt to support the design of the next generation of aircraft.

In a statement on Wednesday, Airbus said its zero-emissions development center in Felton, Bristol, had already begun work on developing the technology.

One of the site’s main goals will focus on working on what Airbus calls a “cost competitive cryogenic fuel system” that its ZEROe aircraft will need.

Details of three zero-emissions “hybrid-hydrogen” concept aircraft were released under the ZEROe name in September 2020. Airbus has said it wants to develop “zero-emissions commercial aircraft” by 2035.

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ZEDC in the UK will join other similar sites in Spain, Germany and France. “All Airbus ZEDCs are expected to be fully operational and ready for ground testing with the first fully functional cryogenic hydrogen tank during 2023, and with flight testing beginning in 2026,” the company said.

The environmental footprint of aviation is significant, with the World Wildlife Fund describing it as “one of the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions that lead to global climate change.” The WWF also says that air travel “is currently the most carbon-intensive activity an individual can undertake.”

Just this week, environmental groups launched legal action against KLM, saying the Dutch aviation giant was misleading the public about the sustainability of aviation.

KLM was notified of the lawsuit on the same day as the company’s annual general meeting. A spokesman for the group confirmed that the group had received the letter and said it would study its contents.

hydrogen hopes

In an interview with CNBC earlier this year, Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury said that aviation “is likely to face significant hurdles if we can’t decarbonize at the right pace.”

Fury, speaking to CNBC’s Rosanna Lockwood, identified a number of areas his company was focusing on. This included ensuring that aircraft burn less fuel and emit less carbon dioxide.

In addition, the aircraft that the company was delivering now has a certified capacity of 50% sustainable jet fuel in its tanks.

“We need to see the Sudanese Air Force industry move forward, be developed and grown to serve airlines and be able to use this 50% capacity of SAF,” he said. “We will reach 100% by the end of the decade.”

Faury explained that the above is a “very important part of what we do”. “The next stage is to look into the medium and long term future to bring the hydrogen jet to market because this is really the ultimate solution,” he said, noting that a lot of engineering, research and capital commitments are needed. .

Described by the International Energy Agency as a “versatile energy carrier”, hydrogen has a variety of applications and can be deployed in a wide range of industries.

It can be produced in several ways. One method involves the use of electrolysis, with an electric current that splits water into oxygen and hydrogen.

If the electricity used in this process comes from a renewable source such as wind or solar energy, some call it green or renewable hydrogen. The vast majority of hydrogen generation currently relies on fossil fuels.

Airbus isn’t the only company looking into the use of hydrogen in aviation. Last October, plans were announced to operate hydrogen-electric commercial flights between London and Rotterdam, and those behind the project hope to take to the skies in 2024.

At the time, airline ZeroAvia said it was developing a 19-seat aircraft that would “fly entirely on hydrogen.” In September 2020, the company’s six-seat hydrogen fuel cell aircraft completed its maiden flight.

CNBC’s Sam Meredith contributed to this report

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