Airbus gains confidence in 2035 goal to deliver hydrogen plane

Airbus plane Source: iStock/VanderWolf Images

Airbus SE is growing increasingly confident it can build a hydrogen-powered plane that’s ready to enter service by its target date of 2035. 

The European planemaker is likely to produce short or medium-range aircraft at first, and then scale up, chief executive officer Guillaume Faury said Wednesday. Enginemakers have significantly changed their views, “which is very positive,” he said on a panel at a sustainability event in Toulouse, France.

“Every day we become more confident,” Faury said in a Bloomberg Television interview from the event. “We need to have a plane, we need to have the right fuels, the hydrogen available in the right quantities at the right time, and we need the regulations to be ready.”

The remarks highlight Airbus’s bet on hydrogen to address climate change, despite the technological challenges. Aside from gaining regulatory approval for a new product architecture, the shift will require fitting airports with equipment, and a massive increase in sustainably generated fuel. Airbus is likely to start with smaller aircraft, Faury said. 

Given the challenges, it’s not clear how quickly hydrogen can make an impact on aviation emissions. Some in the industry, including Boeing Co. CEO David Calhoun, contend a hydrogen-powered jetliner comparable to modern-day narrow-bodies is decades away.

Airbus too is focusing on measures such as sustainable aviation fuels in the short term. In February, the company told EU officials in a presentation that hydrogen-powered aircraft with more than 150 seats probably won’t feature globally until 2050.

On a panel with Faury on Wednesday, Andrew Murphy, aviation director at campaign group Transport & Environment, said cutting back on the amount of flying is going to be an “increasingly attractive option” for governments trying to stem carbon emissions. 

“The threat to industry is not one technology versus the other, it’s all of technology on one side versus demand management on the other side,” Murphy said.

© 2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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