Air travel relies on fossil fuels and therefore represents a significant source of global CO2 pollution. Aerospace engineers at Airbus and the startup ZeroAvia see hydrogen fuel as the most viable route for eliminating net carbon emissions from air travel. Airbus has publicly released three zero-emission aircraft designs, and ZeroAvia has received millions in investment to develop zero-emission aircraft for commercial use.

3 Zero Emission Aircraft Designs From Airbus

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Airbus has announced the ambitious plan to have zero-emission aircraft in service by 2035. The company’s three proposed designs are a regional 100-passenger turboprop, 120 to 200-passenger turbofan narrowbody, and a blended wing aircraft that could transport up to 200 passengers.

Picture taken at Toulouse-Blagnac Airport (LFBO) in France. Credit: Laurent ERRERA

The turboprop would adapt gas engines for hydrogen fuel and have a range up to 1,000 nautical miles. The turbofan narrowbody could travel up 2,000 nautical miles and rely on turbofan jet engines modified for hydrogen fuel. The blended wing aircraft goes beyond modification of existing engines. The blended wing design allows for a wider fuselage that could store more hydrogen fuel.

Current Advantages Of Hydrogen For Aviation

Although electrically powered aircraft can work, battery weight limits them. Hydrogen, however, could work for aircraft in two ways. Hydrogen can power fuel cells that produce electricity for direct conversion by an engine, or hydrogen can be burned directly by a hydrogen engine.

Storage tank for liquid hydrogen fuel located just to the Northeast of Kennedy Space Center’s former shuttle launch pad 39-A. Credit: TomFawls

With hydrogen appearing to be the most viable alternative to fossil fuels at the moment, ZeroAvia has been working with British Airways to learn how hydrogen could meet the demands of commercial aviation. Hydrogen can be sourced from water through electrolysis or derived from fossil fuels. If sourced from water, the CEO of British Airways said that hydrogen could provide zero-emission regional air travel by 2050.

Do you see hydrogen as the right path to zero-emission flight or should electric batteries receive more research?

ABOUT Airbus

As a proven leader in the global aerospace sector, Airbus designs, produces and delivers innovative solutions with the aim to create a better-connected, safer and more prosperous world.

These cutting-edge products and services – which span the commercial aircraft, helicopter, defense, security and space segments – benefit from our wide-ranging expertise and continued emphasis on innovation.

A commercial aircraft manufacturer, with Space and Defence as well as Helicopters Divisions, Airbus is the largest aeronautics and space company in Europe and a worldwide leader.

Airbus has built on its strong European heritage to become truly international – with roughly 180 locations and 12,000 direct suppliers globally. The company has aircraft and helicopter final assembly lines across Asia, Europe and the Americas, and has achieved a more than sixfold order book increase since 2000.

ABOUT ZeroAvia

Aviation accounts for over 12% of total transportation emissions, growing at the fastest rate on the way to doubling by 2050.  Released at high altitudes, aviation emissions have 2–4x the impact of comparable ground source emissions.

ZeroAvia enables zero-emission air travel at scale, starting with 500-mile short-haul trips, at half of today’s cost. The Novel approach removes many limitations of the current zero-emission programs.  $100+ billion market in faster, safer, cleaner, more convenient local travel.​ Resulting market disruption creates 100,000+ unit demand in the next 10 years.

ABOUT British Airways

British Airways is a full-service global airline, offering year-round low fares with an extensive global route network flying to and from centrally-located airports.

British Airways can trace its origins back to the birth of civil aviation, the pioneering days following World War I. In the 100 years that have passed since the world’s first scheduled air service on August 25, 1919, air travel has changed beyond all recognition. Each decade saw new developments and challenges, which shaped the path for the future.

On August 25, 1919 Aircraft Transport and Travel Limited (AT&T), a forerunner company of today’s British Airways, launched the world’s first daily international scheduled air service, between London and Paris. That first flight, which took off from Hounslow Heath, close to today’s Heathrow Airport, carried a single passenger and cargo that included newspapers, Devonshire cream, jam and grouse.

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