Aviation giants urge UK Government to get clear on hydrogen vision

A coalition of businesses in the aviation sector, including easyJet and AirBus, are calling for the next UK Government to strategically plan for commercialising hydrogen-fuelled passenger planes.

Aviation giants urge UK Government to get clear on hydrogen vision

Image: Airbus

The Hydrogen in Aviation Alliance (HIA) launched late last year and has this week warned that breakthroughs in hydrogen-powered mobility pioneered by businesses and academics “will be inconsequential” if they are not supported to commercial maturity “with the appropriate skills, infrastructure, investment and regulation”.

Members of the alliance include Rolls-Royce, Bristol Airport, easyJet and Airbus – the latter of which is striving to commercially operate 100% hydrogen fuelled passenger planes with at least 100 seats by 2035.

These businesses are warning that the UK will only deliver the ambitions of the ‘Jet Zero Strategy’, which sets a 2040 net-zero target for domestic flights and a 2050 deadline for international routes, if Ministers take swift, strategic, joined-up decisions to scale hydrogen technologies.

Ministers are betting heavily on efficiency improvements and alternative aviation fuels, such as biofuels and waste-derived fuels, to achieve the Strategy. But the Alliance says hydrogen will also play a crucial role.

The Alliance is urging the next Government to shift its strategic funding focus from research to development for hydrogen-ready aviation technologies including planes. It notes that member business ZeroAvia is already pioneering small hydrogen passenger planes, aiming for short-haul commercial routes in 2026.

Ministers must also consider airport infrastructure as well as the planes themselves, the Alliance is emphasising. It wants to see Ministers working with the industry to develop a network off ‘hydrogen-ready’ airports within the UK and across Europe to enable refuelling capabilities.

The Alliance is additionally imploring policymakers to clarify how hydrogen producers will need to prioritise end-use cases.

The Conservative Government is striving for the UK to host 10GW of low-carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030 and is supporting renewable hydrogen projects with grant funding and revenue certainty. But policymakers have been reluctant to dictate how the produced hydrogen should be used to maximise benefits such as emissions reductions.

Building a skilled workforce

To bring technologies to maturity and to deliver and maintain infrastructure, the Alliance highlights, a joined-up plan to develop a skilled workforce is necessary.

The UK Government has not comprehensively updated its skills since 2017 – two years prior to the national 2050 net-zero target being enshrined in law.

The Alliance is urging the prioritization of such an update, plus the creation of targeted platforms through which government staff, industry and academia can collaborate to deliver appropriate education and training.

Beyond the aircraft, we have to prepare people, policy and infrastructure to build a world-leading hydrogen aviation economy in the UK,” said Airbus’s head of research and technology Mark Bentall.

Related article: MPs warn of pitfalls and greenwashing in UK Government’s ‘Jet-Zero’ plans

Comments (1)

  1. Richard Phillips says:

    Liquid hydrogen is an extremely difficult material to handle, and requires a lot of very cold storage space.
    It is not a case of simply dropping hydrogen in place of petroleum fuel.
    Just a word of caution to the less initiated.

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