Airbus unveils first zero-emission commercial aircraft powered by hydrogen; to be operational by 2035

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The three concepts each represent a different approach to achieving zero-emission flight, exploring various technology pathways and aerodynamic configurations

Airbus unveiled three concepts for the world’s first zero-emission commercial aircraft and they may enter service by 2035.

These concepts each represent a different approach to achieving zero-emission flight, exploring various technology pathways and aerodynamic configurations in order to support the company’s ambition of leading the way in the decarbonisation of the entire aviation industry, Airbus said in a statement.

All of these concepts rely on hydrogen as a primary power source - an option which Airbus believes holds exceptional promise as a clean aviation fuel and is likely to be a solution for aerospace and many other industries to meet their climate-neutral targets.

“This is a historic moment for the commercial aviation sector as a whole and we intend to play a leading role in the most important transition this industry has ever seen. The concepts we unveil offer the world a glimpse of our ambition to drive a bold vision for the future of zero-emission flight,” said Guillaume Faury, Airbus CEO.

“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,” he added. 

The three concepts - all codenamed “ZEROe” - for a first climate neutral zero-emission commercial aircraft comprise a turbofan, a turboprop and blended-wing body design.

A turbofan design (120-200 passengers) with a range of 2,000-plus 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.

“These concepts will help us explore and mature the design and layout of the world’s first climate-neutral, zero-emission commercial aircraft, which we aim to put into service by 2035,” said Faury.

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, said Airbus.

Image credit: Airbus

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