The UK’s HIA alliance says hydrogen is inevitable in air transport

HIA alliance hydrogen
The UK’s HIA alliance says hydrogen is inevitable in air transport

According to the Hydrogen In Aviation alliance, HIA, which includes Airbus, Easyjet, Rolls-Royce and other partners, SAFs are merely a transition phase. And hydrogen will play an important role, starting with short flights.

Created in September 2023, the HIA brings together a number of players including Airbus, easyJet, GKN Aerospace, Ørsted, Rolls-Royce, ZeroAvia and Bristol Airport. The alliance has just published a recent activity report which suggests a roadmap to the British authorities. It also expressed its views on the development of hydrogen in an article published on the website of the Institution Of Mechanical Engineers, an organisation with 114,000 members in 140 countries.

The paper states from the start that there are no miracle solutions. Today, there is a lot of talk about sustainable fuels (SAF, which can be derived from biofuels or obtained from hydrogen and CO2). They are available as a 50% blend and will increase to 100% by the end of the decade. But their share will only be 6% in Europe in 2030 and 10% in the UK.

Airbus to make its choice in 2025

Hydrogen can be converted into electricity using a fuel cell, or used directly as a fuel. This is the option chosen by Rolls-Royce, for example, with its Ultrafan demonstrator. And both technologies have their place. All eyes are on Airbus as it continues to evaluate the two options. In the article, Solange Baena-Zambrana, representing the aircraft manufacturer in the UK, states that the choice will be made in 2025 and that a programme will then be launched between 2026 and 2028 to bring the vision of a hydrogen aircraft in 2035 to fruition.

Whatever the propulsion mode, the challenge will be to supply airports with hydrogen (gaseous or liquid). For example, Heathrow airport alone will require 1,300 tonnes by 2040. This poses problems in terms of production and storage. However, it’s exactly the same when it comes to SAF.

First short flights expected in 2026

In fact, the players in the aviation industry are calling on the decision-makers for greater recognition of hydrogen, which should be placed on the same level as SAF. And subsidies will be needed.

For Jane Ashton, Director of Sustainable Development at easyjet*, there are grounds for hope. “5 years ago, hydrogen was not considered in aviation, whereas it is on the table today.” Most importantly, she points out the players who are working on hydrogen-powered regional aircraft and will be ready long before the big ones. The article mentions ZeroAvia, but also H2Fly and Universal Hydrogen. It also mentions Cranfield Aerospace, which is working on a battery-based solution and is aiming for 2026. That’s right around the corner.

*working on the FlyZero project

Article written by Laurent Meillaud and translated by Mariem Ben Tili

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About the author

Laurent Meillaud

Laurent Meillaud

Freelance automotive journalist and consultant, author as well, focused on technologies and new trends for more than 30 years, convinced that hydrogen is one of the energies for the future.

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