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Zero emission ambitions: Aircraft of the future

The Vice President for the Zero-Emission Aircraft Project at Airbus, Glen Llewellyn, recently spoke during a CAPA Live event about what they are doing inside their ZEROe project.

  1. The aviation industry has set itself very aggressive targets in terms of CO2 emissions reduction.
  2. Airbus is looking into what is the best configuration for a zero-emission commercial aircraft.
  3. The classical configuration as tube-and-wing with a turbofan and a turboprop propulsion system powered by hydrogen versus a blended wing body is quite different in terms of overall aircraft design.

Three concept aircraft were revealed by Airbus in September 2020. These aircraft of the future are a part of the suite of concepts that Airbus is looking into in order to determine what is the best configuration that they may bring to market by 2035 as the first zero-emission commercial aircraft.

Llewellyn went on to share the following information during the CAPA โ€“ Centre for Aviation event. He explained classical configurations as tube-and-wing configurations with a turbofan and a turboprop propulsion system powered by hydrogen versus a blended wing body quite different in terms of overall aircraft design. He went on to say:

The blended wing body is really good at helping us understand what the maximum potential of hydrogen could be in the future because the blended wing body lends itself to carrying energy storage solutions like hydrogen which require more volume than kerosene. And so, it could be seen as the ultimate ambition in terms of performance of a hydrogen aircraft.

What we’re likely to bring to service by 2035, nonetheless, is more likely to be what you see โ€ฆ in terms of tube-and-wing configuration. And we’ll talk a little bit about the architecture and some of the technologies in those aircraft later on.

First of all, what I’d like to share with you is a little bit of the rationale for why Airbus is focused on this, why Airbus is pushing these solutions, and why we have the ambition to bring the first zeroemission aircraft to market by 2035.

In terms of context and helping explain the Airbus strategy, I guess many of you will be aware that the aviation industry has set itself very aggressive targets in terms of CO2 emissions reduction. One of the most famous of those targets is talking about reducing to 50% of the 2005 levels the CO2 emissions by 2050. And we know that biofuels are, for sure, part of the solution.

What we also know is that we need to bring onboard synthetic fuels based on renewables to further scale up and accelerate the transition which we have initiated. And synthetic fuels basically fall into two categories.