Airbus predicts launch of first hydrogen jet by 2035

Airbus predicts launch of first hydrogen jet by 2035

Following on from our recently published article, in which the Airbus COO Mark Bentall expressed his high hopes for hydrogen-powered aviation, Airbus has now predicted it will launch its first hydrogen jet as early as 2035.

European aerospace giant Airbus will begin building a commercial jetliner powered by hydrogen gas before the end of this decade and will have the plane in service by 2035, according to CEO Guillaume Faury.

“Hydrogen has an energy density three times that of kerosene – [technically it] is made for aviation,” he told reporters at a sustainability event in Toulouse last week, the Financial Times reported.

Amid a host of technical challenges, Airbus’ 2035 goal ranks it among the most ambitious proponents of hydrogen in the aviation industry. U.S. rival Boeing is also working on hydrogen-powered aircraft but doesn’t currently see them in the air at scale before 2050.

That raises big questions for the sector as it seeks to decarbonise – the International Air Transport Association is due to vote on setting a net zero emissions target of 2050 at its next meeting in October.


Among the technical hurdles are the need to liquefy and store hydrogen at minus 253 degrees centigrade. While hydrogen carries more energy than traditional jet fuel, its super-low temperature means the tanks that hold it are four times the size, requiring a major redesign of any plane that needs to accommodate them (check out the shapes of Airbus’ ZEROe concept aircraft).

Equally as important to the success of any hydrogen-powered fleet is the infrastructure to support it, including the production of enough clean hydrogen and the supply chains to deliver and store it at airports around the world.

However, Airbus’ 2035 ambitions are relatively modest – it envisions first producing a regional or shorter-range hydrogen-powered aircraft. The company said in a presentation to the EU as recently as June that traditional jet engines will continue to dominate until 2050.

During that period, the industry will rely instead on increasingly efficient engines powered by sustainable aviation fuel, which has very similar chemistry to traditional jet fuel but is made from sustainable feedstocks, such as food waste and energy crops. The main drawback of sustainable aviation fuels is cost, but such that is expected to fall substantially as it scales up.

But that is likely to be only an interim solution and hydrogen looks increasingly like the aviation fuel of the future.

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