Hydrogen is being talked about more and more, especially in Europe. In July, we saw the European Commission announce a large hydrogen project that will cost €5.4 billion. Then in October, we saw another interesting hydrogen-related announcement, namely the construction of the first hydrogen corridor from Spain to the Netherlands.
Will hydrogen also help aviation?
Aviation is often referred to as one of the most polluting sectors of the planet with its emissions. Now we are seeing a big step in the effort to decarbonize aviation from the British company Rolls-Royce together with its partner in this project, the airline easyJet. The companies have successfully launched a hydrogen-powered aircraft engine for the first time ever.
The British company said in a statement that the ground test, which used a rebuilt Rolls-Royce AE 2100-A engine, used environmentally friendly hydrogen produced using wind and tidal power.
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Both companies want to prove that hydrogen can indeed safely and efficiently power civil aircraft engines. Companies are already planning further sets of tests that should gradually lead to flight tests.
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Grant Shapps said of the tests.
“This is a true British success story, with the hydrogen being used to power the jet engine today produced using tidal and wind energy from the Orkney Islands of Scotland – and is a prime example of how we can work together to make aviation cleaner while driving jobs across the country.”
What does this successful test mean?
Realistically, we can say it is a great achievement and a very exciting milestone. On the other hand, we must take into account the fact that this is only the first successful test, so real deployment in service is still a matter for many years.
Even if the technology were ready now, it would take a long time before it became widespread. Not many airlines can afford to invest in new aircraft in the current situation and, in addition, aircraft carriers and airport infrastructure would have to be significantly redesigned.
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It is therefore possible that we will see successful flight tests and the gradual implementation of hydrogen engines in smaller aircraft in the coming years, but most air travel will still rely on traditional jet engines for a very long time.
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