The hydrogen moment is fast approaching, according to Airbus. Guillaume Faury, the aircraft maker’s CEO, who has been talking about future fuels for years, said the company is ready to start building a hydrogen-powered commercial jet before the end of the decade.
The European aerospace champion is increasingly confident that 2035 is a “fair and realistic prospect” for hydrogen aircraft entering service, despite other industry leaders’ skepticism about how quickly the gas could affect aviation emissions.
“We don’t need to change the laws of physics to go along with hydrogen. The energy density of hydrogen is three times that of kerosene – [technically it] Made to fly,” Faury told reporters at the Airbus Sustainability Event in Toulouse.
His comments indicate Airbus’s growing confidence that the company will be able to meet the complex engineering and safety challenges needed to operate hydrogen-powered aircraft. However, Faury cautioned that governmental and regulatory support is needed.
He said Airbus needed “a degree of certainty” about the regulatory environment and fuel availability by 2027/28, when the company must decide whether or not to invest billions in a new hydrogen aircraft programme.
“This is amazing [decarbonisation] The challenge isn’t just with the aircraft, it’s about getting the right fuel – hydrogen – at the right time, in the right place, at the right price, and that’s not something aviation can manage on its own,” he said.
Mr. Faury’s remarks underscore the growing urgency in the aviation industry as it strives to achieve zero-emission targets by 2050. Before the pandemic grounded a large portion of the global aircraft fleet, aviation was responsible for nearly 2.4 percent of global emissions.
The pressure to reduce emissions has only accelerated since the crisis. The summit in Toulouse brought together airlines, airports and policy makers in an effort to spur a collaborative approach on how to burn less kerosene.
In Toulouse, Heathrow chief executive John Holland Kaye called on airlines to help launch the use of sustainable aviation fuels, telling the audience: “If we don’t reach net zero by 2050, we will have no business. The more we expand sustainable aviation fuels exponentially. The faster, the faster the decarbonization of flight.”
Airbus, along with its peers, agree that there is no single “magic bullet” and that a variety of solutions will be needed to meet the decarbonization challenge. It is also working on various technologies, including sustainable jet fuel.
But there are still disagreements about how quickly the industry can make hydrogen happen and that Airbus’ enthusiasm isn’t shared by everyone.
At Airbus rival Boeing, engineers are also working on technologies like hydrogen and electric propulsion, but the company has made it clear that it believes the potential of gas has been off for a while.
“My path is not going to — between now and 2050 it won’t include the introduction of hydrogen-powered aircraft in the range of aircraft we are referring to,” Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun said at an analyst conference in June.
– Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2021
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