Boeing’s European rival Airbus has presented three concepts for the world’s first zero-emission plane, a move that the company’s CEO Guillaume Faury called "a historic moment for the commercial aviation sector".
The three concepts, which use hydrogen as a fuel, include:
- The turbofan plane, capable of intercontinental flights, would carry between 120 and 200 passengers and have a range of over 2,000 nautical miles. It would be powered by a modified gas-turbine running on hydrogen.
- The turboprop plane would carry up to 100 passengers and be capable of travelling more than 1,000 nautical miles, which, according to Airbus, makes it a perfect choice for short-haul trips.
- A blended wing body plane (the wings merge with the main body of the aircraft) would carry up to 200 passengers and have a range of over 2,000 nautical miles.
Meet #zeroe, our new zero-emission concept aircraft! These 3 concepts are powered by #hydrogen to reduce aircraft emissions.— Airbus (@Airbus) September 21, 2020
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"The concepts we unveil today offer the world a glimpse of our ambition to drive a bold vision for the future of zero-emission flight. 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", Faury said.
Airbus said it aims to put the world’s first zero-emission plane into service already in 2035. However, the company noted that the transition to clean energy would require "decisive action from the entire aviation ecosystem", as well as support from governments, which can fund "research & technology, digitalization and mechanisms that encourage the use of sustainable fuels".
The transition to hydrogen would also require changes in airport infrastructure, such as new refuelling stations and transport vehicles carrying hydrogen, Airbus said.
In recent years, there has been increasing demand for the airline industry, as well as car industry, to shift to renewable or clean forms of energy, as governments are trying to lower carbon emissions that are said to drive global warming. For the airline industry, the demand for change is especially crucial, as it has become one of the hardest-hit sectors by the coronavirus pandemic. European airlines – some of world's biggest polluters – have asked for $37.5 billion in bailout funds since the start of the pandemic, but politicians have made it clear that they are ready to extend a helping hand, but in return want carriers to cut their carbon emissions.