Passengers could one day fly to the other side of the world with zero carbon emissions and just one refuelling stop, thanks to government-funded liquid hydrogen plane technology.
The concept aircraft was unveiled by the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) ahead of the fourth meeting of the Jet Zero Council, which is chaired by the Transport Secretary.
Members of the Jet Zero Council include Neville Hargreaves, Vice President at Oxfordshire-based waste to fuels company, Velocys, Professor Peter Littlewood, Executive Chairman, The Faraday Institution based at Harwell and Val Miftakhov, Chief Executive Officer at Cotswold Airport-based ZeroAvia, a leading innovator in hydrogen-electric zero emission powertrains.
The FlyZero project, led by the ATI and funded by the government, has developed a concept for a midsize aircraft powered by liquid hydrogen. It is capable of flying 279 passengers halfway around the world without a stop or anywhere in the world with just one stop to refuel.
This means that a zero carbon, non-stop flight could be operated between London and San Francisco, or that passengers could fly around the world from London to Auckland, New Zealand with just one stop, at the same speed and comfort as today’s aircraft.
The project showcases the huge potential of liquid hydrogen powered aircraft as the UK drives for a cleaner and greener air travel future and builds on progress already achieved by the Jet Zero Council, a partnership between industry and government with the aim of delivering zero emission transatlantic flight within a generation.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “As we build back greener, it’s crucial that we place sustainability at the heart of the aviation industry’s recovery from COVID-19.
“This pioneering design for a liquid hydrogen powered aircraft, led by a British organisation, brings us one step closer to a future where people can continue to travel and connect but without the carbon footprint.
“I will continue to work closely with the Jet Zero Council to support the UK’s world-leading research in this sector, which will create green jobs, help us meet our ambitious net zero targets and lead the global transition to net zero aviation.”
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “These designs could define the future of aerospace and aviation. By working with industry, we are showing that truly carbon-free flight could be possible with hydrogen a front-runner to replace conventional fossil fuels.
“Fuelling planes sustainably will enable the public to travel as we do now, but in a way that doesn’t damage the planet. It will not only help us to end our contribution to climate change, but also represents a huge industrial opportunity for the UK.”
Jet Zero Council CEO Emma Gilthorpe said: “The Aerospace Technology Institute’s pioneering research highlights the potential for hydrogen in realising zero-carbon global connectivity.
“This ground-breaking green technology looks set to play a critical role in decarbonising flight and through the work of the Jet Zero Council, the UK aviation sector is exploring all avenues to ensure we protect the benefits of flying for future generations while cutting the carbon cost.”
Another technology with the potential to decarbonise flying is sustainable aviation fuel, a low-carbon fuel made from waste materials.
Earlier this year, the UK government set out its ambition to become a world leader in the production of sustainable aviation fuel, launching the £15 million Green Fuel, Green Skies competition to support the early development of trailblazing UK facilities working to turn everyday waste into jet fuel.
The shortlisted winners, which included Swindon-based Advanced Biofuel Solutions Ltd, Berkeley, Gloucestershire-based Green Fuels Research and Velocys Projects Ltd are receiving a share of the £15 million in funding.