Rolls-Royce and EasyJet to keep trying hydrogen combustion engine tech for airplanes

Royce and EasyJet continue to test hydrogen combustion engines

July 21, 2022: -On Tuesday, Aerospace giant Rolls-Royce said it paired up with airline easyJet to develop and test hydrogen combustion engine technology for aircraft.

In a word, London-listed Rolls-Royce said the two companies would work together on a range of ground-based tests slated to begin this year. Both firms had “a shared ambition to take the technology into the air,” it added. easyJet had the same statement about the partnership on its website.

The collaboration’s goal, H2ZERO, “is to demonstrate that hydrogen has the potential to power a range of aircraft from the mid-2030s onwards,” Rolls-Royce said.

According to the company, not to be confused with Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, which BMW owns, the firms will conduct an “early concept ground test” of a Rolls-Royce engine using hydrogen technology in the U.K. this year.

A full-scale ground test of the technology using a Pearl 15 jet engine will follow, with Mississippi mooted as a potential location. Tuesday’s announcement follows a statement on Monday in which Rolls-Royce outlined its plans for the above-ground tests.

“The technology that emerges from this program has the potential to power easyJet-size aircraft, which is why we will also be making a multi-million-pound investment into this program,” Johan Lundgren, the EasyJet CEO, said.

“To achieve decarbonization at scale, progress on developing zero-emission technology for narrowbody aircraft is crucial,” Lundgren added.

Using hydrogen to power an internal combustion engine differs from hydrogen fuel cell technology, where gas from a tank mixes oxygen, producing electricity.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center notes that fuel cell vehicles emit “only water vapor and warm air.”

By contrast, hydrogen ICEs can produce other emissions. “Hydrogen engines release almost zero trace amounts of CO2 but can produce nitrogen oxides or NOx,” Cummins, an engine maker, says.

Aviation’s environmental footprint is considerable, with the World Wildlife Fund saying it is “one of the biggest-growing sources of the greenhouse gas emissions which drives global climate change.”

The WWF says air travel is “the most carbon-intensive activity an individual can make.”

The energy in the nuclear waste can power the U.S. for 100 years, but the technology was not commercialized.

Earlier this year, Guillaume Faury, the CEO of Airbus, told CNBC that aviation would “potentially face huge hurdles if we don’t manage to decarbonize at the right pace.”

Faury added that hydrogen planes represent the “ultimate solution” for the mid and long-term. In May, his company announced launching a U.K.-based facility focused on hydrogen technologies.

While there is excitement in a few quarters about hydrogen planes and their potential, much work must be completed to commercialize the technology and roll it out on rare scales.

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