At Airbus, we believe hydrogen is one of the most promising zero-emission technologies to reduce aviation’s climate impact. This is why we consider hydrogen to be an important technology pathway to achieve our ambition of bringing a zero-emission commercial aircraft to market by 2035.
The next frontier in alternative-propulsion technology
Hydrogen is a high-potential technology with a specific energy-per-unit mass that is three times higher than traditional jet fuel. If generated from renewable energy through electrolysis, it emits no CO2 emissions, thereby enabling renewable energy to potentially power large aircraft over long distances but without the undesirable by-product of CO2 emissions.
Because hydrogen has a lower volumetric energy density, the visual appearance of future aircraft will likely change. This is to better accommodate hydrogen storage solutions that will be bulkier than existing jet fuel storage tanks.
Airbus is currently a member of the Hydrogen Council to benefit from the huge cross-industry experience on hydrogen.
Two primary uses for hydrogen in aviation
Hydrogen has been safely used in the aerospace and automobile industries for decades. The aviation industry’s challenge now is to take this zero-emission energy carrier and adapt it to commercial aviation’s needs.
At Airbus, we see two primary uses for hydrogen:
- Hydrogen propulsion: Hydrogen can be combusted through modified gas-turbine engines or converted into electrical power that complements the gas turbine via fuel cells. The combination of both creates a highly efficient hybrid-electric propulsion chain powered entirely by hydrogen.
- Synthetic fuels: Hydrogen can be used to create e-fuels, which are generated exclusively through renewable energy. Hydrogen produced using renewable electricity is combined with carbon dioxide to form a carbon fuel with net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.
We expect to make the necessary decisions on the best combination of hydrogen technologies by 2025.
A high-potential technology to meet aviation’s climate targets
Renewable hydrogen is expected to be a solution for several industries to meet their climate targets. And we believe the aviation industry should be no exception: it is estimated that hydrogen has the potential to reduce aviation’s CO2 emissions by up to 50%.
We collaborate with a variety of industry players, including energy providers and airports, to ensure hydrogen can help us to take significant steps towards climate-neutral aviation.