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Rolls-Royce Partners with EasyJet to Test Hydrogen-Powered Aircraft Engine

  • Rolls-Royce to collaborate with airline easyJet to develop and test hydrogen combustion engine technology for aircraft
  • The company intends to demonstrate hydrogen's potential to power a range of aircraft from the mid-2030s
  • The move comes as pressure mounts on the aviation sector to reduce hazardous emissions

Aerospace giant Rolls-Royce entered into a partnership with airline easyJet to develop and test hydrogen-powered engine technology for aircraft. Both companies plan to collaborate on a number of ground-based tests that would commence later in 2022. The collaboration, known as H2ZERO, is aimed at showcasing hydrogen's potential to power a range of aircraft from the mid-2030s. The move comes as pressure mounts on the aviation sector to reduce hazardous emissions. Following the relaxation of COVID-19 travel restrictions, air traffic and emission levels increased.

Hydrogen in the Aviation Industry

According to Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), a non-profit organization based in the US, global air travel accounts for 2.5% of carbon emissions currently. The aviation sector is looking at hydrogen fuel cells as a substitute for conventional aircraft propulsion systems to decrease carbon emissions. According to Euro Control, hydrogen-powered aircraft could emit zero CO2 emissions, and demonstrate a 30% to 50% reduction in impact from contrail and cirrus formation, when compared with aircraft operating on conventional fuel. Hydrogen combustion could reduce the climate impact of flights by 50% to 75%, and fuel-cell technology by 75% to 90%.

Hydrogen fuel cells offer zero-emission transportation, with heat and water being the only byproducts. Hydrogen burns cleanly, leading to the production of only water vapor. Hydrogen also offers an advantage over batteries since it is lighter, making it a practical choice for flights. Hydrogen will play a critical role in transforming a difficult-to-decarbonize sector such as aviation into a zero-carbon system in the decades ahead.

Recent Developments

Companies are collaborating with airlines and research bodies to understand the operational and technological constraints of using hydrogen as fuel. Airbus teamed up with aircraft manufacturer Air France-KLM and the Paris region to build a unique ecosystem that will transform Parisian airports into hydrogen hubs. Air Liquide and Groupe ADP announced plans to create the first joint venture to facilitate the development of hydrogen infrastructure at airports. ZeroAvia, the leader in hydrogen-electric solutions for aviation, announced a collaboration with Otto Aviation, LLC, to develop a hydrogen-electric powertrain to power Otto's Celera aircraft.


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