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Airbus to abandon gasoline, switch to hydrogen in 15 yrs

Wednesday, October 14, 2020   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Matt Watson
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Airbus to abandon gasoline, switch to hydrogen in 15 yrs


The turbofan design would be capable of travelling transcontinentally, covering distances of more than 2,000 nautical miles. Airbus


Global warming’s apocalyptic manifestations are here for the world to see: frequent, stronger and deadly typhoons, Pacific islands vanishing under the onslaught of rising sea levels, infernal forest fires from the Amazon and Brazil to the Russian tundra all the way to California.

In 2019 worldwide, 15 extreme weather event, exacerbated by climate change, caused more than $1 billion in damage each. Four of these events each caused more than $10 billion in damage. The large-scale use of fossil fuels tops the list of factors contributing to climate change, Brookings said.

With the view of reducing greenhouse gases and other human-caused emissions, 195 countries forged the Paris Agreement, a landmark environmental accord adopted in 2015, to lower global temperature to 2 degrees Celsius in this century above preindustrial levels, while pursuing means to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The pact provides a pathway for advanced economies to develop alternative energy sources away from fossil fuels.

The state of California and dozen other countries around the world already have similar laws imposing a ban on gasoline-powered vehicles by 2030, including China, England, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Israel and India.

Canada and France have announced a phase-out of internal-combustion engines by 2040.

Fuel cell vehicles

Fuel cell vehicles, as alternative to batteries, use hydrogen gas to power an electric motor. Unlike conventional vehicles, which run on gasoline or diesel, fuel cell cars and trucks combine hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity, which runs a motor with nothing more by way of byproduct as water.

Even boats and ships are preparing to convert from diesel power engines to hydrogen.

In September, Microsoft Co-founder Bill Gates was reported to have pledged more than $600 million for a hydrogen-powered superyacht that was unveiled at the recent Monaco Yacht Show.

Increase in airlines’ emissions

As their share to reduce the airline’s carbon footprints, Airbus—the company that gave birth to the supersonic Concorde and the Airbus 380, the largest commercial carrier in the world—has proposed using hydrogen fuel in commercial aircraft to replace gasoline and other jet fuels by 2035.

Worldwide emissions from commercial flights are rising up to 70-percent faster than predicted by the United Nations, according to The Guardian.

“Carbon dioxide emitted by airlines increased by 32 percent from 2013 to 2018,” according to the study by the International Council on Clean  Transportation.

Researchers said the rate of growth far exceeded that used to develop projections for carbon-dioxide emission by the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

Airlines in the 36-member countries of the ICAO have signed up to a carbon reduction scheme known as Corsia and will start according to their emissions this year, The Guardian added.

A forecast by Airbus in mid-September this year said the number of commercial aircraft in operation would double to 48,000 planes worldwide by 2038, fuelled by an emerging middle class and urbanization, particularly in Asia-Pacific.

Airbus to switch to hydrogen fuel

The global aviation industry has committed to cutting emissions to half their 2005 levels by 2050. In order to do this, the sector will need to rapidly reduce its reliance on crude oil-based jet fuel and turn increasingly to sustainable aviation fuels.

The move by Airbus to switch to hydrogen fuel could mark a significant step toward making sustainable aviation fuels commercially viable. The company estimates that hydrogen has the potential to reduce aviation’s carbon emissions by up to 50 percent.

Hydrogen fuel cells are cleaner and more efficient than traditional combustion-based engines and power plants.

Hydrogen and fuel cells can also be used in mobile applications to power vehicles and mobile power packs. The benefit of fuel cells is reduced greenhouse-gas emissions.

The European rival to Boeing said it will carry out its plan with the unveiling of the three ZEROe concepts. This are the turbofan, a turboprop and blended-wing body design.

Anand Stanley, Airbus president in Asia Pacific, presented the three ZEROe concepts during a virtual news conference last week.

Airbus ZEROe designs

The turbofan design would carry 120 to 200 passengers with a range of over 2,000 nautical miles. It will be powered by a modified gas-turbine engine running on hydrogen, rather than jet fuel.

The turboprop design would carry up to 100 passengers and would be capable of traveling more than 1,000 nautical miles, making it suitable for short-haul trips.

A blended-wing body design would carry up to 200 passengers. The wings would merge with the main body of the aircraft, which has a range similar to that of the turbofan.

Climate and pandemic crises

Airlines and airplane manufacturers are currently facing growing pressures to tackle carbon emissions, with some governments tying climate crisis goals to coronavirus bailout packages.

The pandemic has plunged aviation into its worst-ever slump and is expected to accelerate the shift toward renewable forms of energy, as governments use the opportunity to promote a green recovery.

But Stanley said there are some problems to hurdle before the aviation industry could go full throttle on hydrogen fuel.

He said the government and the private sector must get together and put up the infrastructure of production, delivery and distribution, the way fossil fuels today are managed.

He said the government must also pave the way for hydrogen fuel’s adoption by crafting the regulatory mechanisms.

“If we succeed, we can create a pathway toward the Paris Agreement, and create a major decarbonized aircraft and help the aircraft industry fulfill its ambitions.”

Apt timing

According to Stanley, Airbus always stays true to its vision of a decarbonized zero emission ambition.

“This idea has been going on for 20 years. It’s not a new concept to us. We’ve been working multiple demonstrations of open-air mobility, vertical take-off and landing, etc., and other technological pathway towards zero emission,” he said.

He pointed out that prior to Covid-19 Airbus had wanted to have zero carbon emission aircraft by mid-2030s but he believes the timeframe is short.

“But we at Airbus believes to continue and progress with the concept of hydrogen fuel and come up with various demonstrations in matter of months, not years,” he said.

Despite the pandemic, the Airbus CEO said airline’s time line of 15 years, or by 2035, “is ripe to increase the appetite and accelerate for decarbonization and for a climate-neutral  aviation industry.”

He added: “The confluence of Covid and demand for decarbonization is very apt timing.”

As clear signs that gasoline and related products are on the retreat, Royal Dutch Shell and British    Petroleum (BP) have announced recently on separate occasions that they are slashing jobs “to accelerate a shift away from fossil fuels.”

The Anglo-Dutch company said on September 30 that it would cut between 7,000 and 9,000 positions by the end of 2022, while BP said it would cut 10,000 jobs, or 15 percent of its work force.

Hydrogen production

As for hydrogen production, a  Japanese consortium has launched the Fukushima Hydrogen Energy Research Field, a renewable-energy powered 10 MW-class hydrogen production unit, known as “the largest-class in the world.”

The company said hydrogen is produced and stored based on the hydrogen demand and supply forecasting systems in the market.

On the other hand, the German government has adopted its national hydrogen strategy on June 10 with plans to ramp up production capacity to 5 GW by 2030 and 10 GW by 2040.

German Economic Minister Peter Altmaier said Germany’s hydrogen strategy is “the greatest innovation since the EEG,” a reference to the landmark German renewable energy sources act which came into force in 2000.

“With this ‘quantum leap,’ Germany wants to become the world’s leader in hydrogen technologies,” Altmaier said.

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