Not long ago, the aircraft manufacturer Airbus introduced not one, but three hydrogen aircraft concepts. The objective is to select one of these three projects in order to market it in about fifteen years. According to the aeronautic giant, this is a historic moment for the entire commercial aviation industry.
Three concepts of hydrogen airplanes
In June 2020, the French government launched a recovery plan for the aeronautics sector. As part of this plan, Airbus published images relating to its new ZEROe program. The giant presented three zero-emission planes, each with hydrogen as its main energy source. Until 2025, Airbus will work on maturing technologies and architectures. Then, a pre-launch phase will take place until 2028 and in 2035, it will be a question of marketing to airlines.
“This is a historic moment for the entire commercial aviation industry, and we intend to play a leading role in the most significant transition our industry has ever seen. I am convinced that hydrogen, used both in synthetic fuels and as a primary energy source, can significantly reduce the climate impact of aviation,” said Guillaume Faury, executive chairman of Airbus.
All three planes have the same power source, but have very different aerodynamic configurations. We are talking about a “classic” turbojet, a turboprop (propeller plane) as well as an aircraft with an integrated fuselage (flying wing). The “classic” turbojet is a short medium-haul aircraft with a range of 3,500 km and capable of carrying between 120 and 200 passengers. The hydrogen-powered gas turbine will take the place of kerosene and the shape of the plane will be the same as usual.
The other two planes, however, have an unusual shape. The turboprop engine imagined by Airbus is a propeller-driven plane with a range of 1,800 km and a carrying capacity of around 100 passengers. As for the “flying wing” turbojet, it is an aircraft with an integrated fuselage. Airbus estimates that this type of aircraft could carry 200 passengers. While this aerodynamic shape is not new, it should be noted that it has never been successful in commercial aviation. Other companies like KLM are also working on flying wing concepts.