Airbus Reveals Zero-Emission Concept Aircraft

The aerospace giant believes jets powered by hydrogen fuel could take to the skies by 2035.

The fight against climate change has many fronts, but few appear as tricky as commercial air travel, a carbon-intensive sector that — pandemic-related troubles notwithstanding — appears poised to grow rapidly in coming decades.

One of the world’s leading aircraft makers, however, believes it could have a solution.

Airbus on Monday outlined the ZEROe project, a trio of concept aircraft powered by hydrogen. Although the process of producing hydrogen fuel can create emissions, the fuel itself produces only water vapor as a byproduct.

Two of the Airbus concepts would be powered with liquid hydrogen in modified gas-turbine engines: a turbofan concept able to travel more than 2,000 nautical miles with up to 200 passengers aboard, and a smaller turboprop plane that would carry up to 100 passengers on short-haul flights up to 1,000 nautical miles.

The third would be based on Airbus’ “blended-wing” design that merges the wings and fuselage. Officials said that aircraft could also carry up to 200 passengers with a design that offers numerous potential options for cabin layout and fuel storage.

Airbus says it hopes to put the world’s first climate-neutral, zero-emission aircraft into service by 2035 and, eventually, work to remove carbon emissions from the aviation sector entirely.

Its hurdles, however, are significant. In addition to getting a completely new kind of aircraft designed, built and certified, the initiative will need significant hydrogen transportation and refueling infrastructure — some of the same issues that have hampered hydrogen-powered vehicles.

Airbus stressed it would need cooperation from both industry partners and governments to make it happen.

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