Toulouse. Green plane: the long road to hydrogen
Hydrogen yes, but not immediately. Even if in the wake of the aeronautical recovery plan, unveiled in July 2020, Airbus presented its ambitions for a “zero emission” aircraft in 2035, the road will be long. The Toulouse aircraft manufacturer has clearly made this energy the one that will allow it, tomorrow, to fly planes without emitting greenhouse gases. Guillaume Faury repeated it during the Airbus Summit at the end of September in Toulouse: “The objective of a hydrogen and zero carbon aircraft is for 2035. The entry into service is very realistic and every day more and more credible “.
This plane will certainly be a regional propeller plane with a passenger gauge below 100 seats. Because even if Airbus presented three concepts of zero-emission planes (a propeller-driven turboprop, a derivative of the A320 and a flying wing) the one holding the rope is the smallest of the family. Easier to design and industrialize and to embed a fuel cell, it makes it possible to meet the schedule set by Guillaume Faury.
Airbus has given itself until 2025 to choose its aircraft model and to define the technology that will be used. But there are many technological pitfalls. starting with cryogenic tanks at -253 ° which occupy an important place on board the aircraft, as much the number of seats and therefore the future passenger revenues of the airline. Airbus has entrusted this mission to two of its specialized aerostructure entities in Nantes and Bremen in Germany.
The propulsion system will also have to be thoroughly re-examined. “Hydrogen forces us to review everything. Of course, it is a fuel like any other, but it is very corrosive and attacks the seals, the sealing of the fuel system, the pipes. This will require very strict controls. to avoid any leaks ”confides a motorist leader.
Universal Hydrogen chooses Toulouse
Especially since hydrogen is very flammable. It will also remain for Airbus to imagine, set up and animate a whole new industrial sector: that of hydrogen fueling … green, that is to say from carbon-free electricity. Once produced, this hydrogen will have to be stored and distributed to the foot of the aircraft. An unprecedented logistics for which Universal Hydrogen offers an original solution: conversion kits which make it possible to transform current ATR type turboprop airplanes into hydrogen flying airplanes. The Californian start-up, co-founded by the former Airbus technology patron, the disruptive Paul Eremenko, has also chosen Toulouse to set up its second engineering and design center. The conversion kit includes a fuel cell and an electric motor installed on the canopy. At the rear of the aircraft are loaded hydrogen capsules installed in the fuselage de facto removing ten seats. The capsules are easy to load from the airport tarmac, thus saving refueling time and simplifying logistics. Attractive on paper, these conversion kits will however have to obtain certification from the European and American aviation authorities. As for the hydrogen to power an A320, it will be more for the next generation of planes, around 2050. In the meantime, the aviation industry is banking on biofuels. An ecological transition that will therefore last.