The European aersospace company revealed three different aircraft concepts that would be put through their paces to find the most efficient way to travel long distances by plane without producing the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global heating. UK holidaymakers and business travellers could fly from London to the Canary Islands, Athens or eastern Europe without producing carbon emissions, should the plans become a commercial reality.
All three of the aircraft concepts rely on hydrogen as a fuel because the only emissions produced when it is burned is water vapor, making it a clean fuel option for heavy vehicles such as planes, trains and trucks.
The first Airbus concepts could carry between 120 and 200 passengers more than 2,000 nautical miles by using a turbofan design that includes a modified gas-turbine engine running on hydrogen, rather than jet fuel, which could be stored in tanks located behind the plane's rear pressure bulkhead. The second concept, a turboprop design, would also use a modified gas engine but could carry up to 100 passengers for 1,000 nautical miles on short-haul trips.
The aviation giant's plans also include a plane with an "exceptionally wide" body that blends into the plane's wings to open up multiple options for hydrogen storage and the cabin layout. This plane could carry as many passengers as the turbofan design and travel as far too.
Airbus said hydrogen planes would also require airports to install hydrogen transport and refueling infrastructure, and government support to upgrade aircraft fleets to allow airlines to retire their older, less environmentally friendly aircraft sooner than planned.