A number of major companies, including EasyJet, Rolls-Royce, Airbus, Ørsted, GKN Aerospace, and Bristol Airport, have banded together to form the Hydrogen in Aviation (HIA) alliance, with the aim of accelerating zero-carbon aviation, especially increasing the use of hydrogen.
The group will specifically work to ensure the U.K. leverages the potential of hydrogen power in the aviation industry and across the country. The formation of the group comes as other aviation alternatives have recently come under the limelight, such as sustainable alternative fuel (SAF) and synthetic fuels or batteries. However, HIA believes more focus should be put on the potential of hydrogen.
According to the group, hydrogen is considered an emerging alternative for short-haul aviation. Already, Airbus is developing new hydrogen-powered aircraft that could hit the commercial market in 2035. Plus, Rolls-Royce completed successful ground tests with a hydrogen-powered jet engine in 2022. Rolls-Royce is also testing out SAF options. Other smaller operators are similarly carrying out flight tests on hydrogen-powered aircraft.
The HIA plans to work with the U.K. government, local authorities, and the aviation and hydrogen industries to accelerate the potential of hydrogen power. Their goals include scaling up infrastructure and policy, regulatory, and safety frameworks to bring hydrogen technology into mainstream aviation use.
“There is no doubt that the U.K. has the potential to become a world leader in hydrogen aviation, which could bring with it a £34 billion [$42.69 billion] per annum boost to the country’s economy by 2050, but in order to capture this opportunity, rapid change is needed and the time to act is now,” Johan Lundgren, CEO of EasyJet and first chair of HIA, said in a statement. “We must work together to deliver the radical solutions required for a hard-to-abate industry like aviation so we can protect and maximize the benefits that it brings to the U.K. economy and society and that we know British consumers want to be preserved. HIA looks forward to working with the U.K. Government to ensure the right funding, regulatory, and policy changes are implemented to accelerate the delivery of zero carbon aviation.”
The group specifically noted the U.K. government should focus on three areas to bring about hydrogen’s potential:
- Support the delivery of the infrastructure needed for the U.K. to be a global leader
- Ensure the aviation regulatory regime is hydrogen-ready
- Transform funding for hydrogen aviation R&D support into a 10-year program
The transition to hydrogen power could not only have a significant environmental impact by reducing carbon emissions, but also be a boon to the U.K. economy. Rapid investment in hydrogen aviation could create upwards of 60,000 jobs, contribute more than $22.6 billion in gross value added, and help meet up to 50% of energy demand by 2050.