Hydrogen-powered Airbus aircraft

Zero emissions, quick-change pods, solved hydrogen filling. Pressure on competition: what should Boeing improve against this?

The European manufacturer is announcing plans with perhaps surprising, true, long-term optimism compared to the current crisis, and is suspiciously leaking other information, such as groping negotiations on future engines. The September announcement of zero-emission passenger carriers was memorable, when the company outlined three versions: a purely hydrogen-powered but basic narrow-body machine, a 200-seater bare-wing construction, not much has been written about the third. The current plan seems to be a version of this, but not with two but six propeller engines, also with shoulder blades, a T-guide plane, ATR-like main runners under the fuselage. Specifically: with six complex structures on the wings of the machine, each of which contains an electric motor to drive the eight-pin propellers, fuel cells, a liquid hydrogen tank, a cooling system and other auxiliary equipment.

These would be pods, tanks or gondolas, separate systems operating independently. Airbus emphasizes that all of this would be in a replaceable design, the whole – perhaps in addition to the propellers (?) – “can be dismantled and installed in record time”, which the company says would solve not only maintenance but also refueling at airports. That is, if we understood correctly, it would happen that instead of the usual procedure today, when the machine would be filled either from the underground line or from a tanker rolling to the machine, “pods” that have already been pre-loaded elsewhere should be brought out to the machine and replaced with the discharged ones. This is also interesting because the specialist portals have already mentioned in connection with the autumn plans how much remodeling and how much investment will be needed for the airports to switch and set up a system for the delivery and filling of refrigerated liquid hydrogen. This arrangement would also eliminate the need for a single large hydrogen container located in the tail portion, which many consider to be not safe enough, which was assumed in previous plans.

The Airbus Communication also emphasizes that this idea is just one of the many concepts being explored under the ZEROe program. It is also interesting news that Airbus is said to be planning a completely new model to replace the 320 family and is looking for the right engine for this “NG” – Next Generation aircraft in negotiations with General Electric, a fact which GE has not yet confirmed. It is considered possible that one of the important features of this engine may be that at first it would be suitable for kerosene and later also for hydrogen operation, i.e. it could even be retrofitted as a modernized version of the current neos.

However, one of the experts is quite skeptical about what is happening. Agency Partners analyst Nick Cunningham considers it conceivable that the negotiations (and, let’s add, perhaps the otherwise respectable ZEROe concepts themselves) are actually “fake”, “deceptive” elements in the eternal war between the two major aircraft manufacturers. With these, Airbus is trying to “chase” Boeing into a hasty development program before the new technologies needed for the new narrow-minded bodies mature. With regard to the MAX case, the view is already quite widespread that Americans should start building a successor to the 737, while Boeing is still in a very difficult position to restart the MAXs and sell canceled copies, and the case and the epidemic due to the huge cost of the downturn caused by. In addition, the creation of a new model in the 737 to 787 category, which actually replaces the 757, was not on the agenda (NMA, New Midsize Airplane, also known as Boeing 797), which would be an unpleasant competition for European passenger carriers. Airbus plans can therefore put Boeing executives in a difficult position to decide which costly developments to embark on and in which category to take the potential backlog.

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