How Airbus Hopes To Launch The First Zero-Emission Plane By 2035

Airbus has set itself an ambitious target to introduce the world’s first zero-emission commercial aircraft by 2035. There will undoubtedly be several challenges along the way. Nonetheless, the manufacturer shared details of its strategy at the Airbus Summit in Toulouse last week.

Airbus’ new zero-emission centers will be ready to build liquid hydrogen (LH2) tanks by 2023, ahead of flight tests that are scheduled for 2025. Photo: Airbus

The answer

Hydrogen will be a focal point in the zero-emission goal. While electricity will help support aircraft on short-haul trips, hydrogen is billed to usher in a new wave of medium and long-haul travel in the coming decades. As a result, this time last year, Airbus revealed its three hydrogen-powered commercial concepts – ZEROe – getting the ball rolling ahead of the overhaul.

Following the announcement of the hydrogen propulsion initiative, Airbus has been putting its plans in motion. Notably, in June, the European powerhouse shared that it is working on metallic tanks for liquid hydrogen. It launched Zero-Emission Development Centres (ZEDC) in Nantes, France, and Bremen, Germany.

ZEROe concept aircraft infographic
Airbus is covering more than one angle with ZEROe. Photo: Airbus

The right structure

With this project, Airbus is looking to introduce cost-competitive cryogenic tank manufacturing to back the ZEROe program. The design and integration of tank structures are vital in the race to achieve hydrogen planes.

“I already had the chance to visit one of the two centers that we have created – zero-emission development centers which are focusing on tanks and the tank system in the aircraft. We’ve created that in Nantes and Bremen, where we have extensive knowledge,” Airbus Chief Technical Officer Sabine Klauke shared at the Airbus Summit.

“This is the technology that we have to work on. For Bremen, it’s very close to the Airbus Defence and Space side, and the ArianeGroup. So, here, we are really profiting from a whole ecosystem that knows how to work with hydrogen because in space we’ve always been using it. We will build demonstrators from demonstrators, and the more mature one will actually fly.”

Better air traffic management (ATM) and the deployment of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) will also help Airbus on its way to zero emissions. Photo: Airbus

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Additional measures

Along with the Nantes and Bremen initiatives, Airbus has also been preparing across the wider channel. It is collaborating with Air Liquide and VINCI Airports to utilize hydrogen at airports. The partnership intends to ramp up the European airport network to meet future needs. Lyon-Saint Exupéry is targeted to host the first hydrogen installations as soon as 2023. Following this, the partners are looking to scale up the program to at least 45 airports across 12 countries.

Altogether, Airbus is fully committed to the hydrogen revolution. However, in order for the company and the broader industry to adopt the new approach, the right infrastructure is required. Nonetheless, the firm is showing that it is not waiting around for others to develop solutions. It’s proactively setting the standard in the new era.

What are your thoughts on Airbus’ zero-emission ambitions? What do you make of the processes in place to achieve this goal? Let us know what you think in the comment section.