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As an aviation nerd, I’m always interested in new concepts and get extremely excited when I read about new ideas in the industry. And THIS is a concept that I think is totally cool!
This morning Airbus revealed three new concepts for the world’s first zero-emission commercial aircraft which have the potential to enter service in the next 15 years.
The concepts (below) all rely on hydrogen as a primary power source and Airbus believes it “holds exceptional promise as a clean aviation fuel and is likely to be a solution for aerospace and many other industries to meet their climate-neutral targets.”
THE FUTURE IS HERE (well…sorta…up to 15 years away)
The three concepts are all codenamed “ZEROe,” for a first climate neutral zero-emission commercial aircraft. Let’s take a look at the initial ideas…
The turbofan design will hold between 120-200 passengers, have a range of 2,000+ nautical miles, and will be powered by a modified gas-turbine engine running on hydrogen, rather than jet fuel, through combustion.
For reference, it’s ~ 2,100 nautical miles between New York and Los Angeles and a Boeing 737 or Airbus A320 (think Southwest Airlines) hold approximately the same number of passengers.
The turboprop design will hold up to 100 passengers and using turboprop engines powered by hydrogen combustion will be capable of traveling more than 1,000 nautical miles.
For reference, a CRJ900, those little regional jets that are extremely efficient (but disappointing to everyone when they arrive at the gate area and glance onto the apron) hold approximately the same number of passengers.
And last but not least, the “blended-wing body” design will hold up to 200 passengers concept and the wings will merge with the main body of the aircraft and have a range of 2,000+ nautical miles.
Though I think this a great idea and a concept that I’m totally behind, I also think it goes without saying that this will be an uphill battle for the manufacturer (read: Airbus) and the consumer (read: airlines) for a number of reasons.
For many airlines, it’s about the bottom line and when airlines begin to discuss the purchase price, I foresee an even larger hurdle. For example, let’s say a 737 costs $100 million, would an airline buy a new, zero emission, concept plane for $200 million?
Understanding that aircraft prices never decrease, that is a significant expense for a plane that can barely cover a transcontinental flight.
It’s worth noting that there was no long-haul plane mentioned above. With ~3000 nautical miles between New York and London, what will the plan (and price) be for that concept?
Beyond that, we haven’t discussed the expense associated with transitioning to hydrogen and tackling the challenges of supplying significant hydrogen transport and refueling infrastructure to meet the needs of day-to-day operations at EVERY AIRPORT. Understanding this would require worldwide acceptance and given many are still debating if climate change exists well….
What do you think about these new concept carriers?
p.s. I wonder what the inside of “Concept #3” will look like given it doesn’t appear to have any windows?