Hydrogen-Powered Plane: Flying Widely and Using No Fossil Fuels

Flying is one of the most difficult elements to address when it comes to producing carbon-free transportation. Commercial electric planes will not be feasible until batteries become more powerful and lighter. Another potential option is hydrogen-fueled flight, and a research group has presented what such a plane might look like.

The Aerospace Technology Institute’s (ATI) FlyZero project developed a design for a liquid hydrogen-powered midsize aircraft, according to the firm. It claimed that the plane could transport 279 people without stopping from London to San Francisco, or London to Auckland, New Zealand with one stop for refueling.

The aircraft, with a 54-meter wingspan and two turbofan engines, would provide the “same speed and comfort as today’s planes” while producing zero carbon emissions. The rear part of the concept vehicle would have cryogenic fuel tanks, which would keep hydrogen at minus 250 degrees Celsius, according to ATI. When gasoline is used up, two smaller “cheek” tanks along the foremost fuselage take over for balance.

However, we’re quite a long way from seeing hydrogen-fueled commercial planes become a reality. The refueling infrastructure isn’t yet in place, and hydrogen is more expensive and difficult to store aboard than kerosene-based fuel. Those aircraft may not be entirely out of the question, though.

By the middle of the 2030s, efficient hydrogen planes may be a more cost-effective alternative to conventional aircraft, according to the ATI. This is partly due to the fact that other sectors are moving toward hydrogen, which is expected to drive down supply costs.

The team behind the FlyZero initiative will release a more detailed publication early next year, along with ideas for regional, narrowbody, and midsize aircraft, economic and market analyses, technology roadmaps, and sustainability analyses.