Airbus has revealed today three concepts for the world’s first zero-emission commercial aircraft which could enter service by 2035.
These concepts each represent a different approach to achieving zero-emission flight, exploring various technology pathways and aerodynamic configurations.
All of these concepts rely on hydrogen as a primary power source — an option which Airbus believes holds exceptional promise as clean aviation fuel and is likely to be a solution for aerospace and many other industries to meet their climate-neutral targets.
The three concepts, all codenamed “ZEROe”, include:
A turbofan design
With a capacity of 120-200 passengers and a range of 2,000+ nautical miles, capable of operating transcontinentally and powered by a modified gas-turbine engine running on hydrogen, rather than jet fuel, through combustion. The liquid hydrogen will be stored and distributed via tanks located behind the rear pressure bulkhead.
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 perfect option for short-haul trips.
A “blended-wing body” design
Up to 200 passengers, concept in which the wings merge with the main body of the aircraft with a range similar to that of the turbofan concept. The exceptionally wide fuselage opens up multiple options for hydrogen storage and distribution, and for cabin layout.
In order to tackle these challenges, airports will require significant hydrogen transport and refueling infrastructure to meet the needs of day-to-day operations. Support from governments will be key to meet these ambitious objectives with increased funding for research & technology, digitalisation, and mechanisms that encourage the use of sustainable fuels and the renewal of aircraft fleets to allow airlines to retire older, less environmentally friendly aircraft earlier.