Airbus has launched a new hydrogen research hub near its West Country headquarters where it will explore how the fuel can help decarbonise commercial flight.
The company said it had already started work at the Zero Emission Development Center (ZEDC) on “end-to-end” fuel cell systems – technologies it said were “crucial” to the performance of future hydrogen aircraft.
Airbus said the facility would aim to deliver a “cost-competitive cryogenic fuel system” that it said would enable it to launch a zero emission passenger aircraft by 2035.
The center in South Gloucestershire is just one of a number of ZEDCs established by Airbus in recent months focused on developing storage solutions for liquid hydrogen. Research hubs in Madrid, Spain and Stade, France are looking at composite structure technologies, it said, while facilities in Nantes, France and Bremen, Germany are investigating metallic structural technologies.
Airbus said it expected to launch a “fully functional cryogenic hydrogen tank” at a ZEDC by 2023 before then commencing flight testing of the system by 2026.
It noted that technology development at the UK ZEDC had already begun, revealing that the facility would “cover the full product capabilities from components up to whole system and cryogenic testing”.
Airbus chief technical officer Sabine Klauke said discoveries made at the network of ZEDC’s could have major implications for the decarbonisation of aviation.
“Establishing the ZEDC in the UK expands Airbus’ in-house industrial capabilities to design, develop, test and manufacture cryogenic hydrogen storage tanks and related systems for the ZEROe project across Airbus’ four home countries,” she said. “This, coupled with our partnership with ATI, will allow us to leverage our respective expertise to realise the potential of hydrogen technology to support the decarbonisation of the aviation industry.”
The Filton ZEDC is set to benefit from the three-year, £635m funding package recently granted to Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) to support the development of zero carbon and ultra-low-emission aircraft technologies, Airbus said.
Sharing the news of the launch of the ZEDC on Twitter, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said he was “very proud to support this investment”.
The announcement came on the same day as the government launched a new 10-point plan setting out how it intended to support the sector’s decarbonisation efforts and recovery from the pandemic.
The plan reiterates the government’s mission to deliver zero emission flights across the UK this, and to mandate that 10 per decade of the jet fuel mix is sustainable aviation fuel by 2030.
The 10-point plan is divided into four focus areas: enhancing the UK’s global aviation impact in the wake of the pandemic; embracing innovation for a sustainable future, which includes a path to achieve “jet zero by 2050”; Rebuilding skills and creating an attractive workplace; and improving the traveler experience.
“By working closely with the sector to focus on sustainable growth, powered by the latest innovations, we can ensure that it creates jobs and opportunities across all four nations of the UK,” said Aviation Minister Richard Courts, as he unveiled the plan.
The government is expected to set out its full ‘jet zero’ strategy, setting out its vision to reach for how the sector can reach net zero by 2050 aviation, later this year.