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Airbus Developing Fuel-Cell Engine for Hydrogen Aircraft

zero-emission fuel cell

Airbus has revealed the development of a hydrogen fuel-cell engine built for aeroplanes to have zero-emission aircraft in service by 2035. Airbus recognised hydrogen as one of the most viable choices for powering a zero-emission plane since it emits no carbon dioxide when produced using renewable energy, with water being the most significant by-product.

There are two ways hydrogen can be used as a power source for aircraft propulsion. First via hydrogen combustion in a gas turbine, which is the route Rolls-Royce’s proposed jet engine is taking. And second, by using fuel cells to convert hydrogen into electricity in order to power a propeller engine. According to Airbus, the engine could be used in commercial aircraft capable of carrying up to 100 passengers across 1,000 nautical miles (1,150 miles).

“Fuel cells are a potential solution to help us achieve our zero-emission ambition and we are focused on developing and testing this technology to understand if it is feasible and viable for a 2035 entry-into-service of a zero-emission aircraft,” said Glenn Llewellyn, VP Zero-Emission Aircraft, Airbus. “At scale, and if the technology targets were achieved, fuel cell engines may be able to power a one hundred passenger aircraft with a range of approximately 1,000 nautical miles. By continuing to invest in this technology we are giving ourselves additional options that will inform our decisions on the architecture of our future ZEROe aircraft, the development of which we intend to launch in the 2027-2028 timeframe.”

Airbus has been researching the potential of fuel-cell propulsion systems in aviation for a while now. Airbus formed Aerostack in October 2020 as a joint venture with ElringKlinger, a business with over 20 years of experience as a fuel cell systems and component supplier. Airbus also introduced its pod concept in December 2020, which contained six interchangeable fuel cell propeller propulsion units.