Airbus Unveils 3 Hydrogen-Powered Concept Aircraft

Daniel Fowler
September 23, 2020

Finally, the most eye-catching of the new aircraft uses a blended-wing body and has an "exceptionally wide interior" while relying on two hybrid hydrogen turbofan engines just like the standard turbofan design.

Airbus, the world's biggest planemaker, revealed three designs it is considering to build a hydrogen-powered aircraft as it seeks to bring the world's first emissions-free passenger plane into service by 2035.

A turboprop design (up to 100 passengers) using a turboprop engine instead of a turbofan and also powered by hydrogen combustion in modified gas-turbine engines, which would be capable of traveling more than 1,000 nautical miles, making it a flawless option for short-haul trips. The aircraft's designed range would allow it to carry from 120-200 passengers more than 2,000 nautical miles. "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", said Faury, in the press release. It would be powered by a modified gas-turbine running on hydrogen.

More recently, from 2000 to 2002, Airbus was involved in the EU-funded Cryoplane project, which studied the feasibility of a liquid hydrogen-fuelled aircraft. It said the model has been created to hold similar passenger numbers and cover a similar distance to the turbofan concept.

The Toulouse-based manufacturer also showcased a flying-wing concept, a curvaceous design that blends wing and body, which could seat up to 200 passengers.

"As recently as five years ago, hydrogen propulsion wasn't even on our radar as a viable emission-reduction technology pathway", explains Glenn Llewellyn, Airbus VP, Zero-Emission Aircraft.

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Airbus says it will have to determine specific technologies in the very near term.

In order to tackle these challenges, he said airports would need significant hydrogen transport and refuelling infrastructure to meet day-to-day operational demand.

"The transition to hydrogen, as the primary power source for these concept planes, will require decisive action from the entire aviation ecosystem", said Mr Faury. A ground demonstrator of the hydrogen-fueled engines is expected next year, with flight tests starting in 2023.

All three of the aircraft concepts use hydrogen for fuel, which means the only emissions when burned is water vapor - making it a viably clean fuel alternative for heavy vehicles like trucks, trains, and planes.

It is estimated that Airbus' development of eco-friendly aircraft will cost around €10-12billion using internal funds and with support from the French government fund Corac, which is dedicated to aeronautical research.

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