According to the head of a company developing alternative propulsion, the development of hydrogen fuel cells is moving too slowly, so they will not be able to use the technology in the next generation of zero-emission vehicles.
According to Flightglobal, Paul Eremenko, CEO of Universal Hydrogen, who was also formerly the technical director of Airbus, spoke about this in an online forum. He said that his former employer and its US competitor Boeing would have a new generation of narrow-body aircraft on the market by the end of the decade, but that the fuel cell solution to generate electricity from hydrogen would not be at a stage of development to be used in these aircraft. It envisages that fuel-cell propulsion systems will initially be limited to the 2 megawatt category, which may be sufficient to power regional propeller-driven aircraft.
Larger aircraft, such as the Airbus A320 or Boeing 737, could initially burn hydrogen in jet engines using a similar principle to the current ones. This was agreed by Robin van Muren, the strategic head of the European Union’s Green Aviation Programme. He said the direct use of hydrogen in conventional engines was “less elegant” but “still better than the alternatives, so it’s the only hope” for reducing carbon emissions.
However, there is still a debate on whether gaseous or liquid hydrogen is appropriate for the sector’s long-term plans. According to Val Miftakhov, head of Zero Avia, gas may be the right choice for smaller regional jets and liquid hydrogen for larger ones. Neither solution has yet been approved by the authorities, and this could happen in 2025 at the earliest, according to Eremenko, who believes it is “absolutely crazy” to waste green hydrogen to produce synthetic kerosene (e-fuel), as this use of hydrogen is not sustainable.