Airbus CEO talks about hydrogen planes

In an interview with Atlantic Council Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury talked about hydrogen future in aviation.

We’ve always been very focused on the environment, but even more recently than in the past because of the trend becoming bigger and bigger, and probably also the feeling of urgency with climate change and global warming is stronger every day. There are short-term, mid-term, and long-term measures when it comes to bringing the solutions to the market.

In the short term, the best way to reduce the emissions is to replace all planes that have a much higher, much bigger fuel burn by modern ones, which are by far more efficient and therefore release less CO2 per passenger and per kilometer.

Then, on the short term/mid-term, we have the opportunity to work with sustainable aviation fuels. And together with the airlines—I think together with Boeing, by the way, on that front—we believe the SAFs are the avenue for the next years. The planes we are delivering are today all very capable of.

But the sustainable aviation fuels are a very good short-term/mid-term solution. But we believe on the long term we have to find ways of not emitting any carbon in the atmosphere. A solution that is net-zero is not enough. And to go to that point, we come to the conclusion that hydrogen is one of the solutions, if not the solution.

On top, we see a very strong momentum for hydrogen from many other industries as a way to store intermittent energies like solar, like wind energy, and this will be required. So we see a convergence. We are using hydrogen on our rockets, on our satellites. This is liquid hydrogen. I was in the car industry a decade ago and we see the car industry, the truck industry going to hydrogen, and we think that’s really a strong opportunity.

That’s why we’ve put the hydrogen plane very high on our agenda. It’s not the only answer, and it’s more a long-term answer. We are fully cognizant of that. But we think that’s a fantastic opportunity for the long term to have aviation not only—being the only mode of transport to not impose anything on the ground. You don’t need an infrastructure on the ground. You don’t need to damage the ecosystems on the ground. You fly in the air. But on top, not releasing carbon in the air.

There are engineering challenges. There are technological challenges, that’s for sure. But we don’t believe—we believe they will be overcome. And we see the timeframe to 2035 a very credible one. So we think on the plane side it will be OK. Where we need, as well, large quantities of decarbonized fuels, even e-fuels or hydrogen. The e-fuels are one sort of sustainable aviation fuels, artificial ones. And we will need regulation. We need a global framework for aviation.

In that sense, we very much welcome the momentum given by Joe Biden and the administration to be back to the Paris agreement and to put the bar very high. So if we have US, Europe, and potentially China joining to create this level paying field for carbon in aviation, then we will have the means to invest on technologies to bring decarbonized planes and to contribute to aviation for the future in a climate-neutral way. So that’s why we are very adamant to see hydrogen on planes.

Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury

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