Airbus aims for commercial hydrogen-powered aircraft by 2035

25 Sep 2020

The three ZeroE concept aircraft. Image: Airbus

This week in future tech, hydrogen fuel could be taking to the skies with news that Airbus is developing three zero-emission aircraft.

Emissions from aviation are estimated to contribute to 2pc of the world’s total emissions and, prior to Covid-19, were expected to rise rapidly. Now, facing extra tariffs and penalties for using large quantities of fossil fuels, aircraft manufacturers are revealing low- or zero-emission concepts.

Earlier this week, Airbus revealed three different concepts that could take to the skies by 2035. All three ‘ZeroE’ concepts rely on hydrogen fuel as the primary power source, with a turbofan and a turboprop design.

The third futuristic design features a ‘blended-wing body’. In this concept, the wings merge with the main body of the aircraft, which Airbus said would open up multiple options for hydrogen storage and distribution, and for cabin layout.

Airbus noted, however, that significant investment is needed for hydrogen transport and refuelling infrastructure at airports across the globe if the plan is to – quite literally – take off.

“The transition to hydrogen, as the primary power source for these concept planes, will require decisive action from the entire aviation ecosystem,” said Guillaume Faury, CEO of Airbus.

“Together with the support from government and industrial partners, we can rise up to this challenge to scale-up renewable energy and hydrogen for the sustainable future of the aviation industry.”

EV batteries made from sea rocks might reduce CO2 emissions

Researchers have proposed that the carbon footprint of mining for minerals needed for electric vehicle (EV) batteries could be reduced by 90pc if sourced from deep-ocean rocks rather than land ores.

In a study published to the Journal of Cleaner Production, led by Daina Paulikas of the University of Delaware, the researchers said that deep-sea polymetallic nodules found in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone of the Pacific Ocean contain rich concentrations of four metals required for EVs in a single ore.

The study found that producing battery metals from these nodules can reduce active human emissions of CO2 by 70 to 75pc, put 94pc less stored carbon at risk, and reduce disruption of carbon sequestration services by 88pc.

“Terrestrial miners are handicapped by challenges like falling ore grades, as lower concentrations of metal lead to greater requirements of energy, materials and land area to produce the same amount of metal,” said Paulikas.

“Furthermore, the actual collection of nodules entails a relatively low energy, land and waste footprint compared to a conventional mine. When it comes to emissions, even when we assume a complete phase-out of coal use from background electric grids for process inputs, our model shows that metal production from high-grade polymetallic nodules can still produce a 70pc advantage.”

Kingspan takes EV fleet number to 69 with three new Teslas

Kingspan, the maker of high-performance insulation and building envelope materials, has confirmed the arrival of three new Tesla EVs, bringing its total zero-emission fleet to 69. These vehicles are used by the company for visits to clients, contractors, architects and sites.

The company is also installing a new six-bay EV charging station at its recently opened Ikon global innovation centre in Kingscourt, Cavan, as part of its efforts to replace its older fossil-fuel powered fleet. By 2030, it aims to power 60pc of all Kingspan operations directly from renewable electricity, while generating 20pc of the equivalent of its energy demand on manufacturing sites.

“As a company, we have committed to reduce significantly our carbon footprint across our value chain by 2030,” said Bianca Wong, global head of sustainability at Kingspan.

“The acquisition of these state-of-the-art vehicles and installation of the charging station supports our broader vision and our target to acquire only zero-emission company cars by 2025.”

In-vehicle payments to exceed $86bn by 2025

Juniper Research has estimated that the value of in-vehicle payments will surge in the next five years. The market research firm said that while valued at $543m today, this market will rise to $86bn by 2025 – with fuel and EV charging payments accounting for 77pc of payments by this time.

The report recommended that in order to support this rapid growth, established payments vendors must be included within collaborative ecosystems. This, it said, is to ensure that requirements such as security via tokenisation and integration with digital wallets are achieved effectively.

“Fuel and charging can be the compelling use case that accelerates the adoption of in-vehicle payments, but to achieve this, industry participants must focus on building collaborative frameworks that boost integration and improve availability,” said Nick Maynard, co-author of the research.

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Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic