Climate protection: airbus in hamburg builds “green aircraft

Airbus reports progress on "green aircraft" in Hamburg

In September 2020, Airbus presented three concept studies for "green aircraft". Now the company is making progress with new technology.

Aircraft manufacturer researches tanks, turbines and fuel cells with partners. Despite climate protection measures, flying should not become a luxury.

Hamburg. In September 2020 announced Airbus plans to build the world’s first "green aircraft" by 2035 emission-free aircraft to put into service. Three very different-looking airplanes were presented as concept studies, each of which uses hydrogen as a propulsion system.

Now reports the Aircraft manufacturer progress thanks to cooperation with partners. "There are very many, very concrete outcomes as pieces of a puzzle that together will lead us to reach the very ambitious 2035 milestone," said technology chief Grazia Vittadini in a video conference hosted by the industry association BDLI.

Hydrogen needs more volume than kerosene

Central element for the new plane is the fuel tank. Hydrogen must be cooled in liquid form at minus 250 degrees Celsius and requires four times more volume than kerosene. "The tanks have to be moved from the wing to the fuselage," said Vittadini. Planes are getting wider and longer. This affects aerodynamics and architecture.

"We have to build a new aircraft around the new engine," Vittadini said. The company is cooperating with ElringKlinger to get the first fuel cell approved for use in aviation. Together with the engine manufacturers MTU and Rolls-Royce, they are "working on modified gas turbines that will be able to burn hydrogen directly". By 2025, the configuration of the "green aircraft" to be used on regional and medium-haul routes is to be defined.

Additional state funds for alternative propulsion systems

Thomas Jarzombek (CDU), the German government’s aviation commissioner, announced that an additional 200 million euros in research funding will be made available for electric and hydrogen engines. "We would like to see regional jets really flying electric in 2030," Jarzombek said.

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On long-haul routes, the industry relies on sustainable kerosene (SAF) produced with the help of renewable energies. Rolls-Royce tests two engines with 100 percent SAF. "Actually, they burn even better than fossil kerosene," said executive member Jorg Au. They say it’s the fastest and easiest way to advance climate-neutral flying. However, the quantity of SAF is still far too small, and prices are correspondingly high.

Flying should not become a luxury

Au does not think that flying will be a luxury in the future. MTU Chief Technology Officer Lars Wagner takes a similar view. He expects SAF to be only 20 to 30 percent more expensive than conventional kerosene in the future if demand is high, instead of many times more expensive today. Fuel costs made up only about 30 percent of operational costs anyway, "so it won’t lead to such an increase in cost that only the rich can afford to fly".

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