Hydrogen-powered aviation is a promising, zero-carbon solution for aviation. Using hydrogen as a fuel for aircraft, aviation can minimise its climate impact. Aviation is currently responsible for approximately 3% of global carbon emissions. If nothing changes this share is expected to grow to 20-50%. Airlines, airports, and other stakeholders have recognised the need for their businesses to be future-proof, including a sustainable and scalable response to the onset of hydrogen-powered aviation.
Hydrogen has the potential to revolutionise the aviation sector, from powering aircraft to ground service equipment (GSE). The unique properties of hydrogen, such as its energy density, result in a unique market position, expected to be complementary to electric flight and Sustainable Aviation Fuels, bridging the gap in range and payload capacity.
The hydrogen aviation sector is currently undergoing several advancements. Start-ups are working to retrofit existing airframes with hydrogen propulsion systems, with some expecting to enter service in the mid-2020s. Traditional aircraft manufacturers such as Airbus are also developing a hydrogen-powered aircraft, with plans to enter service in the mid-2030s.
The near-term introduction of hydrogen in aviation is likely to be limited to specific routes where fuel availability is not a constraint. However, the complexity of supply chain, airport infrastructure and route network changes present challenge to immediate, widespread adoption of hydrogen in aviation.