Airbus, EasyJet, Rolls-Royce Join Forces in UK on Hydrogen-Powered Flying

By September 5, 2023 3   min read  (504 words)

September 5, 2023 |

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In a concerted effort to spearhead a greener future for aviation, industry giants Airbus, easyJet, and Rolls-Royce have unveiled their alliance—Hydrogen in Aviation (HIA). This UK-based collaboration aims to serve as the vanguard for the adoption of hydrogen-powered flight, a technology that could revolutionize how we travel through the air.

The coalition is not merely about research and prototypes. HIA has rolled up its sleeves to build the requisite infrastructure, set policies in motion, and establish safety protocols. This is all in preparation for what could be a historic moment: the debut of the world’s first hydrogen-powered aircraft.

Johan Lundgren, the CEO of easyJet, didn’t mince words during a media briefing: “It would be unforgivable if the aircraft were ready to fly and we could operate them, but things got stalled because the necessary policies were not in place.” As it stands, Airbus has its sights set on launching a hydrogen-based commercial aircraft by 2035. And if all goes according to plan, easyJet wants to be the first in line for this cleaner alternative to jet fuel.

This alliance also features a collective of players who know a thing or two about sustainability. Among them are GKN Aerospace, a British parts manufacturer, and Denmark’s green energy titan, Orsted. Their shared mission? Establish the frameworks needed to make hydrogen aviation not just a pipe dream but a practicable reality.

By the close of 2023, HIA aims to release a comprehensive report outlining the key milestones required over the ensuing decade to bring hydrogen-powered aviation into the mainstream. But there’s more at stake here than just breaking new ground in aircraft tech.

What makes hydrogen an especially tantalizing option is its potential economic impact. According to the HIA, adopting hydrogen as an aviation fuel could pump as much as £34 billion annually into the UK’s economy by the halfway mark of this century.

“There is no doubt that the UK has the potential to become a world leader in hydrogen aviation,” added Lundgren. “To seize this golden opportunity, swift and collaborative action is imperative. HIA is committed to engaging with the UK Government to secure the necessary funding, regulations, and policy alterations.”

Apart from hydrogen, other alternatives like Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) have also gained traction in the government’s Jet Zero strategy. Derived from renewable sources like agricultural waste and used cooking oil, SAF can curtail carbon emissions by up to 80% compared to conventional jet fuels.

Grazia Vittadini, CTO of Rolls-Royce, emphasized the collective spirit of HIA: “Collaboration is key when it comes to achieving our net-zero ambitions. We have already tested an aero engine on green hydrogen, and we firmly believe this is a pathway to decarbonize aviation in the long run.”

As Airbus CTO Sabine Klauke put it, “A united industry voice is crucial to ensure a robust hydrogen ecosystem. This collaborative approach to policy and investment pushes us closer to a decarbonized future of flying.”



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