Airbus’ latest sustainable tech gives the iconic A380 a new lease on life
Airbus recently announced plans to repurpose one of their discontinued A380 superjumbos for cutting-edge hydrogen propulsion testing.
Airbus have taken a massive step forward in their plans to make the first commercially available hydrogen-powered aircraft by 2035. In a partnership with CFM International, the manufacturer has begun work on a hydrogen demonstration programme that would see an A380 superjumbo fitted with liquid hydrogen tanks as a trial propulsion method. “This is the most significant step undertaken at Airbus to usher in a new era of hydrogen-powered flight since the unveiling of our ZEROe concepts back in September 2020,” Sabine Klauke, chief technical officer for Airbus, said in a statement. It makes me very happy indeed to see such an iconic aircraft, previously discontinued, given new lease of life as a pioneer in sustainable aviation technology. With hydrogen estimated to be able to halve all aviation’s carbon emissions, it certainly seems like a step in the right direction for ensuring a sustainable future for aviation. The A380 ‘flight laboratory’ is the latest project under Airbus’ ‘ZEROe’ programme, which was unveiled back in 2020, and saw concepts for hydrogen-powered aircraft announced to the public as well as the manufacturer’s 2035 goal. The aircraft is set to be equipped with a hydrogen engine manufactured by CFM International, which will be fitted to the rear fuselage of the A380. This will be the first working concept to come out of that programme, so you could argue its success hinges on the old girl pulling her weight one more time. I’m confident in the A380, and Airbus’ abilities, however – at least I’m trying to be a bit more optimistic given the state of the world at the moment.
To me, at least, hydrogen fuel is something to be optimistic about. International players have increasingly been looking to develop the infrastructure needed to produce and implement hydrogen as the next viable alternative to fossil fuels. Far beyond the sustainable capabilities of other ‘green’ fuels like SAF, Green Hydrogen is 100% emission-free, while also being far more fuel-efficient than traditional aviation fuel. It’s no wonder that countries like Germany are committing vast sums of money to funding hydrogen production and developing the infrastructure needed to make the fuel viable in a competitive market. For manufacturers like Airbus, there’s a veritable ‘arms race’ occurring to see who can come up with the most viable, and therefore most widely adopted, green tech to inevitable be used in sustainable aviation. In that regard, advancements like Airbus’ lean green flying machine could set the company up to rake in billions in profit if their concepts become the ‘industry standard’ for a sustainable industry. Probably the only time capitalism has actually given something back to the environment then, as said competition will see concepts like ZEROe rolled out more and more frequently as manufacturers race to become the new face of sustainable aviation.