Hydrogen aircraft long-term aim, as easyJet unveils net zero roadmap


easyJet has launched what it calls “the aviation world’s most ambitious plan” for achieving net zero by 2050, driven by an ultimate ambition to be flying on zero carbon emission hydrogen-powered aircraft.

Within its net zero roadmap, unveiled on 26 September, easyJet detailed how it plans to cut carbon emissions per passenger, per kilometre, by 78% by 2050 on 2019 levels, while reducing residual emissions through use of carbon removal technology. Its plan is made up of a series of key components, including zero emission technology, which it plans to adopt as soon as it becomes available. Here, it highlighted how technology advances in hydrogen mean it now has “the most potential for a short-haul airline” to decarbonise.

The advantages of embracing hydrogen in aviation include that it has no operational carbon emissions, while is also able to significantly reduce non-CO2 emissions too. easyJet noted the work it has been involved in over the past few years to accelerate the development of zero carbon emission technologies with Airbus, Rolls-Royce, GKN Aerospace, Cranfield Aerospace Solutions and Wright Electric. Within this, easyJet is striving to provide both the airline and customer perspective to partners, while also demonstrate to manufacturers that there is demand for zero carbon emissions aircraft.

Further components include fleet renewal, with replacing older aircraft with younger, more fuel efficient models a crucial step to decarbonise; operational improvements and efficiencies, something easyJet hopes to drive with multi-million-pound fleet-wide investment in the latest aircraft software to enable optimisation of aircraft descents; and airspace modernisation, something critical for the entire industry as it can achieve carbon reductions right now, with more direct flight paths resulting in shorter flying times.

Elsewhere, its approach involves sustainable aviation fuel, which easyJet is pledging to use as required until its fleet has fully transitioned to zero carbon emission aircraft. All SAF volumes needed for the next five years have been contracted with fuel partner, Q8Aviation. It has also signed a letter of intent with Airbus to support the development of carbon removal technology and pledged to invest in local environment projects that support biodiversity, benefiting the local communities that it serves.

It further noted the need for government support to ensure full decarbonisation of the aviation industry, with recommendations including the development of a regulatory framework “now” which can reward and incentivise manufacturers to produce aircraft that can operate carbon-free flights, such as those powered by hydrogen; recognition on the role of green hydrogen in aviation through incorporating the requirements of aviation in the UK and EU hydrogen strategies, as well as incorporating hydrogen as a sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) equivalent in the EU ReFuelEU Aviation proposal and the UK’s SAF mandate; for investment in renewable energy to help support the creation of green hydrogen to be used for aviation; and support for the development of hydrogen supply and infrastructure at airports.