Flying is one of the most difficult challenges to overcome when it comes to establishing carbon-free modes of transportation. Batteries need to get more powerful and lighter before electric planes may be used for commercial purposes. Another option is to fly using hydrogen fuel, and a design for such a plane has been revealed by a study group.
The Aerospace Technology Institute and the UK government have teamed up on the FlyZero project to develop a concept for a midsize aircraft fueled by liquid hydrogen. With a single refueling stop in Auckland, New Zealand, the plane could travel 279 passengers non-stop from London to San Francisco. With two turbofan engines and a 54-meter wingspan, the aircraft would have the same speed and comfort as current airplanes while emitting zero carbon dioxide.
Fuel tanks in the back fuselage of the ATI concept plane would be cryogenic, holding hydrogen at -250 degrees Celsius (-418 degrees Farenheit). The plane would be more stable if it had two smaller “cheek” tanks on the forward fuselage.
Commercial hydrogen aircraft, on the other hand, are still years away from being a reality. Hydrogen is more expensive and difficult to store onboard than kerosene-based fuel because of the lack of refueling infrastructure. It’s possible that these planes could become a reality in the near future.
According to the ATI, efficient hydrogen planes could be more cost-effective than conventional planes by the middle of the 2030s. That’s in part due to the fact that hydrogen is becoming more popular in other industries, which could result in lower supply costs.
Details on the FlyZero project’s conclusions are expected to be released early next year, including proposals for regional planes as well as narrow-body planes as well as mid-size planes.