Hydrogen adoption in aviation: Any lift-off Yet?

Hydrogen powered plane

Aviation contributes to 3.77% of greenhouse gas emissions in the EU.  With the emissions growth rate at a concerning 129% from 1990 to 2019, the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG) industry association called for carbon-neutral growth from 2020 onwards and a 50% reduction of emissions by 2050 relative to 2005 levels.  This requires a revolution in aircraft design and the fuels used, and hydrogen can play a key role.  Despite the impacts of COVID on air travel, has the aviation industry begun to make strides in hydrogen adoption?:

  • In March 2023, Delta Airlines has released a strategic roadmap, including electric and hydrogen-powered planes, in order to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. The airline seeks to reduce CO2e emissions by 90% across all scopes by 2050. In the short run, Delta is focusing on efficiency enhancements and investments in early-stage technologies, with the goal of reducing aircraft fuel burn by 1% compared to the baseline year of 2019. The airline plans to have 25% of its fleet made up of cutting-edge aircraft by 2050, and it wants to source 95% of all of its fuel from environmentally friendlier aviation fuels.
  • ZeroAvia also reports record-breaking results of 2.5 kW/kg specific power at cell level in early testing of a High-Temperature Proton Exchange Membrane (HTPEM) systems this week.  ZeroAvia thinks next-gen fuel cell propulsion technology should be economically feasible for larger aircraft, thanks to advancements in pressurized HTPEM systems and new conductive coatings. A number of rotorcraft and eVTOL applications, as well as ZeroAvia’s ZA2000 powertrain for 40–80 seat aircraft, are anticipated to be supported by HTPEM devices. The UK government’s HyFlyer II project, run by the Aerospace Technology Institute, aids the company’s creation of HTPEM systems.

At NovAzure, we help clients looking to commercialise decarbonisation practices for the journey to net-zero. You get in touch with our hydrogen lead partner, Phil Cholerton, at p.cholerton@novazure.com.


Sign up to get the latest news and insights

By signing up, you are agreeing to our T&Cs and Privacy Policy, and consent to receive emails periodically.