On the 24th of September 2020, a modified Piper M aircraft became the first of its kind as it took off from Bedfordshire, fuelled not by kerosene but by hydrogen. Company ZeroAvia have said now they believe the science is there for long zero emission flights by the end of the decade.
For anyone unaware of the science behind it, current conventional aircraft are believed to contribute towards about 3.5% of all global climate change, a figure made from both CO² and non CO² induced effects.
The combustion of hydrogen however produces only water vapour, a completely harmless emission by comparison.
This isn’t the first time we have seen a vehicle powered by a hydrogen fuel cell, in fact the technology has been around for several years, however this is the first time the technology has been commercially available in an aircraft. However at the current point in time, the ground infrastructure doesn’t exist to support these types of aircraft. Hydrogen has always been incredibly tricky to store and transport with its low volumetric electric density. Hydrogen is also highly flammable, especially when exposed to extreme heat (Hindenburg anyone?) but the overall efficiency and environmental benefits make the challenge one that is worth proceeding with.
As it stands, the aircraft completed a 20 minute flight, but the company has the backing of the UK Government as part of JetZero Council initiative and has the backing of various ministers. ZeroAvia hopes to complete a 250 mile test flight in the near future to further prove the technology to be possible.
Airbus also recently revealed their hydrogen based aircraft, but it’ll be a few years before they take off
What do you think about the technology? Will you fly on a hydrogen aircraft in 10 years given the option? Do the benefits outweigh the risks?
Edit: will update further if I find any more information.