European aerospace giant Airbus has today unveiled concepts for the first ever commercial zero emissions aircraft, which it said could be in service by 2035.
All three concepts depend on hydrogen as the primary source of fuel, which Airbus said holds “exceptional promise” for an industry trying to clean up its carbon footprint.
Chief executive Guillaume Faury said that the announcement was “a historic moment for the commercial aviation sector as a whole”.
“We intend to play a leading role in the most important transition this industry has ever seen”, he went on.
“The concepts we unveil today offer the world a glimpse of our ambition to drive a bold vision for the future of zero-emission flight.”
The three designs, which are codenamed “ZEROe”, are for different types of journeys and numbers of passengers.
The first, a turbofan design, would carry 120-200 passengers and have a range of more than 2,000 nautical miles.
The aircraft would be capable of operating transcontinentally and is powered by a modified gas-turbine engine running on hydrogen, rather than jet fuel, through combustion.
The liquid hydrogen will be stored and distributed via tanks located behind the rear pressure bulkhead.
Then, for short-haul trips, there is a turboprop model which could carry up to 100 passengers.
It is also powered by hydrogen combustion in modified gas-turbine engines, and has a range of over 1000 miles.
Finally – and most strikingly – Airbus unveiled its “blended wing” design, which would have similar range and capacity as the turbofan model.
The exceptionally wide fuselage opens up multiple options for hydrogen storage and distribution, and for cabin layout, the firm said.
“These concepts will help us explore and mature the design and layout of the world’s first climate-neutral, zero-emission commercial aircraft, which we aim to put into service by 2035,” said Faury.
“The transition to hydrogen, as the primary power source for these concept planes, will require decisive action from the entire aviation ecosystem.
“Together with the support from government and industrial partners we can rise up to this challenge to scale-up renewable energy and hydrogen for the sustainable future of the aviation industry.”