The French government has today revealed plans to invest heavily in developing the plane of the future. France’s ambitions for a zero carbon plane include a reworking of the popular Airbus A320 product line by 2030 and the move to hydrogen fuel by 2035. Altogether, €15bn ($17bn) will be poured into the aerospace sector over the coming years.
The plane of the future
The bailout for France’s aviation sector, estimated at €15bn ($17bn), is not entirely directed towards supporting its existing airlines. While some support will be levied for Air France, the French government is planning to sink a large amount into developing the plane of the future.
According to reporting in LesEchos today, the nation’s ambitions are to develop a zero CO2 emissions aircraft with a goal of launching as soon as 2035. France had previously mooted a zero emissions plane but have brought the launch goal date forward from the previous target of 2050.
The overarching aim is to bring a product to market faster than the US or Chinese aircraft developers, with hydrogen being proposed as the technology that will realize this dream. As well as the extensive research and development required for this project, France wants to completely modernize all 1,300 plus French companies in the aerospace sector, to become the world leader in technology of the future.
A replacement for the A320 by 2030
To work towards the development of the zero emissions plane, France has planned a roadmap for development, as detailed by Minister of Energy Transition and Transport, Elisabeth Borne. This includes developing the successor to the Airbus A320 to be ready by around 2030.
Simultaneously, research is planned to develop the use of hydrogen for fuel, with a plan to switch the new aircraft to this clean energy source by 2035 or thereabouts. The prototype for the new A320 would be revealed around 2026 – 2028, along with a new regional aircraft to be designed before the end of the decade.
It’s an ambitious plan and one which reaches far further, much faster than has previously been estimated. Bourne commented,
“It is an acceleration of 10 years compared to what had been announced by the industrialists for 2045.”
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To support the project, the French government has targeted an investment of €1.5bn ($1.7bn) between now and 2022. This will go to fund the plethora of research and development projects required to get the scheme off the ground. Airbus’ director of strategy, Antione Bouvier, told LesEchos that this would be an essential effort, saying,
“We are going from a public R&D budget of 135 million per year to 300 million this year, then 600 million in 2021 and 2022.”
Alongside the French funding, an additional €400m will come from a European pot over the next two years.
Alongside the funding for this specific project, other funds will be allocated to modernize the aerospace sector in general. France says that its industry, encompassing around 1,300 businesses, lags behind its peers in terms of robotics and other leading technologies.
Altogether, France is plowing around €15bn ($17bn) into its aeronautics industry, €7bn of which has already been promised to Air France-KLM. This money will be used to avoid layoffs, to prevent the cancellation of aircraft orders, and to preserve as many jobs as possible.
What do you think of France’s plan to develop the aircraft of the future? A solid ambition or pie in the sky? Let us know in the comments.