easyJet and Rolls-Royce have established a new partnership, H2ZERO, that will pioneer the development of hydrogen combustion engine technology capable of powering a variety of aircraft, including narrow-body aircraft.
Both firms have agreed to collaborating on a series of ground-based engine tests beginning later this year and share the goal of taking the technology into the air. The cooperation aims to demonstrate that hydrogen has the ability to power a variety of aircraft beginning in the mid-2030s.
While Rolls-Royce will provide its expertise in engine development and combustion systems to H2ZERO, easyJet will contribute its operational knowledge and experience, as well as invest directly in the test programme.
The firms will support an early concept ground test of a Rolls-Royce AE2100 engine in the United Kingdom through H2ZERO later this year. This will be followed by a full-scale ground test of a Rolls-Royce Pearl 15 jet engine in a variety of locations, including the Rolls-Royce test facility in Mississippi, United States of America. Rolls-Royce is conducting first hydrogen combustion and fuel system rig testing with Cranfield and Loughborough universities as part of this effort.
H2ZERO is motivated by the worldwide, United Nations-backed Race to Zero effort, to which both corporations have committed to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
The agreement announced today is the result of a research effort begun by both firms in 2021 to establish market analyses, driving specifications, and investigate infrastructure and regulatory needs to support the use of hydrogen in aviation.
Johan Lundgren, CEO of easyJet, said: “In order to achieve net zero by 2050, we have always said that radical action is needed to address aviation’s climate impact. That’s why today, we are so pleased to announce this partnership with Rolls-Royce. The technology that emerges from this programme has the potential to power easyJet-size aircraft, which is why we will also be making a multi-million pound investment into this programme. In order to achieve decarbonisation at scale, progress on the development of zero emission technology for narrowbody aircraft is crucial. Together with Rolls-Royce we look forward to leading the industry to tackle this challenge head-on.”
Grazia Vittadini, Chief Technology and Strategy Officer, Rolls-Royce, said: “H2ZERO is a big step forward for Rolls-Royce and we are excited to be working with a partner that shares a desire to innovate and find new answers to aviation’s biggest challenges. We at Rolls-Royce want to be ready to pioneer sustainability with whatever the future requires, be it hydrogen, electric power, sustainable aviation fuel, or gas turbine efficiency. This agreement further inspires us to move forward.”
The H2ZERO partnership was also formed in response to extensive studies and market research – including the UK Aerospace Technology Institute’s Fly Zero team and Project NAPKIN (New Aviation Propulsion Knowledge and Innovation Network) – which concluded that there is a market for hydrogen-powered aircraft.