One of the biggest aerospace companies, Airbus, has just unveiled commercial aircraft designs that could take to the skies by 2035 and would emit nothing!
The company took the veil off three futuristic designs of aircraft, that would run on hydrogen – a pioneering project in the sector, and might be in service in the next 15-years or so, the company said in a media release.
Per Airbus’ ambition to decarbonize the entire aerospace industry, the three concepts have been designed representing various ‘technology pathways’ and ‘aerodynamic configurations’ to achieve the zero-emission flight.
“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,” Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury said.
“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,” he added.
“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.”
The emission of the aviation industry which Airbus is seeking to decarbonize with the hydrogen fuel centric design could certainly be a game-changer, should this plan manifest.
Ferrying 4.5 billion people (that is twice than India’s population) in 2019 alone, the aviation industry emitted 915 million tonnes of Co2, in one year. This is still just 2% of the human-induced carbon released in the air, according to Air Transport Action group (ATAG) data.
WWF says, if the aviation industry were a country, it would have been on the top 10 of the world’s most polluting nations. Speaking about carbon emission from all transport sources, the aviation industry contributes 12% of the same.
Airbus’ plans to ‘decarbonize’ the game essential relies on hydrogen as a fuel for its aircraft, which the company vouches to have ‘exceptional promise as clean aviation fuel.’
The three concept designs by the company has been commonly codenamed ‘ZEROe.’
The first ‘turbofan’ design could carry 100-200 passengers over 2,000+ nautical miles, Airbus says, and would run on a hydrogen-powered modified gas-turbine engine.
Concept 1 of the new commercial hydrogen-powered Airbus (Image courtesy of Airbus)
The second ‘turboprop’ design could carry up to 100 passengers and could fly up to 1,000 nautical miles, which Airbus says is perfect for short-haul flights.
Concept 2 of the new commercial hydrogen-powered Airbus (Image courtesy of Airbus)
The last, but certainly not the least, and perhaps the most interesting and oddly good-looking “blended-wing body” aircraft design could carry up to 200 passengers.
Concept 3 of the new commercial hydrogen-powered Airbus (Image courtesy of Airbus)
“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.
But a transition to hydrogen-based fuel would not be as easy as switching diesel for petrol. “The transition to hydrogen, as the primary power source for these concept planes, will require decisive action from the entire aviation ecosystem,” Faury said.
Airport facilities must be well-equipped to meet the demands of liquid hydrogen transport for the day-to-day operations, Airbus says in the media release.
“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,” said the Airbus CEO.
While Airbus’ concept and ambition are commendable, more so at this time when the climate alarm is on, there are a few flying machines that are quite efficient than what they were in the 1960s.
In fact, jets in service today are 80% more fuel-efficient per seat kilometer than they were in the 1960s when the first jets arrived.
Models like the new Airbus A380 and A220, Embraer E2 aircraft and Boeing 787, ATR-600 burn less than 3 litres of jet fuel per 100 passenger kilometres. That is on-par with most modern compact cars, ATAG says.
Note: this post has been updated with more information.