Hydrogen & electric-powered aircraft: Towards Zero-Emission Aviation – Blog of Commissioner Thierry Breton

(Source: European Commission)

The aviation sector, like many others, has been heavily impacted by the COVID shock. It is now confronted with the fall-out of Russia’s military actions against Ukraine.

But we must look ahead. Gone are the days when the aviation sector ignored its responsibility for global warming.

Just recall the commitments taken as part of “Destination 2050”. For the first time, the sector presented a pathway for a climate neutral sector that combines new technologies, improved operations, sustainable aviation fuels and economic measures. And in the Toulouse Declaration, the full range of public and private stakeholders commit to the future sustainability and decarbonisation of aviation.

We must encourage aviation on this path; not banish it from our transport solutions.


Emission-free flight: sustainable and key to the industry’s economic future

Emission-free flight is not just the key to the long-term sustainability of the aviation sector: it is also the key to this industry’s economic future.

Last year, aircraft “made in Europe” accounted for about 65% of commercial aircraft sold globally. The aerospace industry generates 125 billion euros of value added and employs close to one million workers across Europe.

Tens of thousands of aircraft will be sold in the coming decades. In fact, 26 thousand “green” aircraft are expected to be sold by 2050. This represents a total value of 5 trillion euros for the world.

It should be our common ambition that the European industry captures a large share of this global market. So, developing zero-emission solutions for global aviation is therefore a must.

We can be proud that Europe is leading the way in alternative propulsion. Initiatives such as the “flying fuel cell” propulsion system, hydrogen-combustion turbine, or ultralight, safe and reliable tanks for liquid hydrogen storage are all examples of the innovation potential in Europe.

And I am not just referring to the large manufacturers, but also to the many smaller companies and start-ups. The enthusiasm in the aeronautical industry is really encouraging!

The EU is investing heavily to accompany such efforts. Under Horizon Europe programme, 1.7 billion Euros are allocated to the Clean Aviation Partnership.

This comes on top of all the other funds for collaborative research and development actions, as well as national research programmes.


How to ensure that great technologies turn into great products

We all know that great technologies don’t automatically translate into great products. It is also true in aviation.

This is a complex industry which involves actors from many different sectors. Aircraft manufacturers, airlines, airports, fuel providers, maintenance organisations, regulators all must work together to make the system work.

Because if we don’t, we will end up having great aircrafts, but:

·    no standardisation and certification to support these,

·    no hydrogen infrastructure and fuel to fly them with,

·    and no business case for the aviation sector.

In other words, it is time to prepare the entire aviation community.

How to overcome this challenge? For once, maybe we don’t need only engineers to provide a solution. And you do know that I love engineers. I am one of them!

We need the entire aviation supply chain to come together, understand the challenges, agree to a common ambition. And set to work.


The missing piece to put all parties together – the Alliance for Zero-Emission Aviation

Today, as part of ILA Berlin, one of the biggest worldwide events in aviation, I officially launched the Alliance for Zero-Emission Aviation.

The Alliance will have one main goal: to prepare the entire aviation community for the entry into service of hydrogen- and electric-powered aircraft.

The Alliance will identify all barriers to the entry into commercial service of these aircraft, establish recommendations and a roadmap to address them, promote investment projects and create synergies and momentum amongst members.

So: if your organisation is committed to zero-emission aviation and wants to help make it possible, I invite you to join the Alliance.

And to come to the first General Assembly of the Alliance foreseen for end of October, in Brussels.


Continuing to live the dream of flight: innovation as the path for sustainability

Not far from Berlin, Otto Lilienthal undertook his first flight attempts. As so many other aviation pioneers, he was fascinated by the dream of flight.

Today, we live that dream. Aviation has brought us closer to the world. It provides us a safe, affordable, quick and comfortable means of transportation.

There will be challenges, of course, but we can address them if we work together.

And if we do, I am convinced: not only the best is yet to come for the aviation sector but also it will play its full part in the fight against global warming.

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