Airbus has revealed a hydrogen-powered engine that could potentially be used in the creation of zero-emission planes with the capacity to carry over 100 passengers after 2035.
In 2020, Airbus partnered with automotive supplier ElringKlinger to form Aerostack with the goal of developing hydrogen fuel cell engines for aviation vehicles. These engines require a larger unit made up of multiple fuel cells, each with a power output of around 500-600 kilowatts, to generate the necessary power. Hauke Peer Lüdders, the head of engine development at Airbus ZEROe, stated that individual fuel cells are not sufficient to power the engine.
Prototypes of the fuel cell systems are currently being tested at Airbus’ Hamburg factory using hydrogen and nitrogen to evaluate the equipment’s power output and reactions. The company plans to use these engines in its ZEROe zero-emission aircraft, which are set to enter service in 2035.
A demonstrator will be used to test the engine in aircraft in the mid-2020s, and the outcome of these tests will determine if hydrogen-powered aircraft can be successfully implemented as planned. If the tests are successful, Airbus plans to begin constructing zero-emission aircraft in 2027-2028.
Hydrogen fuel has the benefit of producing no carbon dioxide emissions, but it also does not produce NOx, a gas that can combine with other substances in the air to create a harmful compound. Many companies, including Rolls-Royce, are working to make aviation emission-free, and Rolls-Royce recently unveiled a hydrogen engine for this purpose.