Hydrogen propulsion will not take off before 2050

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The European aircraft manufacturer promises to introduce hydrogen as a fuel for regional aviation by 2035, but does not expect the technology to be widely adopted by mid-century. Reuters reports that Airbus gave a briefing on its longer-term plans to European Union leaders, a presentation made in February and now made public by a lobbying group after obtaining it through a data request. In it, the aircraft manufacturer made it clear that the new aircraft to replace the A320 family could arrive in the 2030s, but that even before then, the use of hydrogen propulsion could be ruled out.

At the same time, Airbus still plans to launch the new engine platform by 2035, but this will be mainly for regional and shorter-haul aircraft. In response, an Airbus spokesperson said that it had not yet been decided which market segment the first hydrogen-powered aircraft would enter. The full use of electricity, hydrogen or sustainable kerosene could be expected from 2040 for A220 size aircraft, and from the mid 2030s for smaller aircraft. CEO Guillaume Faury confirmed at Airlines 4 Europe’s annual general meeting that, despite the challenges, the first hydrogen-powered aircraft is expected to arrive in 2035.

Airbus and Boeing have already begun research into the technology for the next generation of aircraft, but David Calhoun, CEO of the US manufacturer, has also ruled out the possibility of producing any meaningful quantities of hydrogen-powered aircraft before 2050, according to Reuters. However, some countries are putting considerable resources into research into new technologies, with France spending €1.5 billion to support the development of the successor to the Airbus A320.

In the meantime, the European manufacturer wants to promote the use of alternative fuels from sustainable sources, which can reduce emissions by 80% over their entire life cycle. Airbus unveiled the concept for its hydrogen-powered aircraft last September, but indicated at the time that the transition would be a challenge for ground handling, as fuel availability would have to be ensured everywhere.

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