A coalition of Easyjet, Airbus and Rolls-Royce are calling for urgent investment from the UK government to power up the aviation sector’s push into hydrogen technology, amid concerns the country will be left behind by international rivals.
The newly launched Hydrogen in Aviation (HIA) alliance, which also includes Ørsted, GKN Aerospace and Bristol Airport, is requesting that the government improve regulation and funding of the nascent technology, ahead of a 2050 net zero deadline.
Hydrogen has been touted as a promising solution for the aviation sector as it races to decarbonise. It is seen as particularly promising for short-haul flying.
The coalition claims that funding hydrogen-powered aircraft will pump £34bn into the economy annually by 2050, with the UK uniquely placed to benefit due to the rate of development in its R&D sector.
But Britain’s infrastructure, domestic production power and regulation are still years behind what is needed to make large-scale commercial use of the technology a genuine reality.
“Action needs to happen now,” Easyjet’s chief executive, John Lundgren told reporters ahead of the launch.
The alliance will try to push UK government and politicians from both parties to improve current safety and regulatory frameworks, while lobbying for cash injections into UK R&D.
Lundgren warned it would be “unforgivable if, actually, the aircraft were available, ready to fly and we could operate them, but actually, it got held back because some of these policies weren’t really in place.”
Speaking to City A.M., Lundgren said the industry needs to see the UK is “stepping up to the plate,” with production levels of green hydrogen currently not “sufficient enough”.
He added that targets set by the UK fall short of commitments made by European countries such as Germany and Poland.
“Where’s your ambition? We believe that the UK government should up their ambition in terms of supply… you then automatically need to have the infrastructure in place to cope with the production of the energy itself,” with a regulatory and safety framework also necessary to ensure the planes’ pass vital checks, he said.
“A united industry voice” is needed to secure a “robust ecosystem of renewable sourced hydrogen,” said Airbus chief technical officer Sabine Klauke
Rolls-Royce chief technology officer Grazia Vittadini echoed that collaboration would be “key when it comes to achieving our net zero ambitions as an industry,” adding that the company strongly believed “it is one of the solutions that will help decarbonise aviation in the mid to long-term.”