• In Their Element: How Hydrogen is Saving the Aviation Industry

Fuel for Thought

In Their Element: How Hydrogen is Saving the Aviation Industry

Nov 24 2021

Currently, the total annual emission of CO2 by the aviation industry comes to around 918 million tonnes, accounting for 2.4% of global output. I know, that doesn’t seem like much. But according to the International Council for Clean Aviation, industry’s emissions increased by 32% in just a 5 year period (2013-2018). And if the International Coalition for Sustainable Aviation are correct, air travel is on track to be using over 25% of the worldwide carbon budget.

Clearly, then, the aviation industry needs a new flightpath.

Course Corrections

A popular suggestion is synthetic fuel – but it’s still pretty expensive and emits pollutants, like NOx. After synthetic fuel, the most favoured option is battery-power, which has shown considerable promise. But largely, the physics of aviation are too delicate to sustain today’s heavy battery units – and many say that, judging by its track-record, innovation in battery technology cannot keep pace with the developing climate crisis.

Zero to Hero

Enter ZeroAvia, headed by early Google investor Valery Miftakhov, and its hydrogen-electric solution to the aviation industry’s woes.

ZeroAvia have already completed over 35 successful test-flights of their powertrain technology using a Piper M-class six-seater aircraft – including the world’s first hydrogen-electric passenger flight back in 2020. Using scaled adaptations of hydrogen fuel cells, ZeroAvia’s propulsion systems produce literally zero emissions – the only by-product is water.

Companies like ZeroAvia in aviation and Ballard Power Systems on the railways have caught the attention of British civil servants, demonstrating as they do the immense potential of hydrogen as the transportation fuel of the future. Similarly, the measurements industry has been rising to the challenge, developing products that address the safety concerns specific to hydrogen fuel cells

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