UK project reveals plans for liquid hydrogen plane


The FlyZero project has developed a concept for a mid-size aircraft that is powered by liquid hydrogen.

On 6 December, the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) revealed the concept aircraft is capable of flying 279 passengers between London and San Francisco direct, or to Auckland with just one stop, with the same speed and comfort as today’s aircraft. The project – backed by the government – has demonstrated the “huge potential” of green liquid hydrogen for air travel, which is lightweight, has three times the energy of kerosene and 60 times the energy of batteries per kilogram and emits no CO2 when burned.

Realising a larger, longer range aircraft will also allow for the concentration of new infrastructure to fewer international airports. This could accelerate the rollout of a global network of zero carbon emissions flights and tackle emissions from long haul flights.

There are technological challenges that remain to realising green liquid hydrogen-powered flight, though the ATI acknowledged a “growing incentive and reward” involved in resolving them. FlyZero has identified the on board technologies in need of rapid development to deliver zero carbon emission flight, as well as the infrastructure and ground equipment for refuelling. Such technologies include wings without fuel tanks, hydrogen tanks, cryogenic fuel systems, fuel cells and electrical power systems and hydrogen gas turbines.

Furthermore, other sectors moving towards hydrogen will lead to increased demand, resulting in lower supply costs. This means a new generation of highly efficient, hydrogen-powered aircraft with low fuel costs is forecast to have superior operating economics than conventional aircraft from the mid-2030s onward.

FlyZero is set to publish detailed findings from its project in early 2022. This will include three final aircraft concepts, technology roadmaps, market and economic reports, and a sustainability assessment.