Design unveiled for FlyZero aircraft it is claimed could carry 279 passengers around the world on zero carbon fuel, as government awards £15m aviation biofuel projects

A design concept for a zero emissions aircraft that would run on liquid hydrogen fuel has been unveiled today by the UK’s Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), as part of a £15m project part funded by the government.

The proposed midsize hydrogen powered plane could potentially fly up to 279 passengers from the UK all the way to Australia with only one refuelling stop along the way, demonstrating the huge potential of green hydrogen in helping to decarbonise global and long haul air travel, according to the ATI-led FlyZero project.

The plane could also fly to destinations such as San Francisco, Delhi, Beijing or Mexico City from London non-step, and further to Auckland or Honolulu with one refuel stop, claim FlyZero developers, which include aerospace and aviation experts.

“At a time of global focus on tackling climate change our midsize concept sets out a truly revolutionary vision for the future of global air travel keeping families, businesses and nations connected without the carbon footprint,” said Chris Gear, director of the FlyZero Project. “This new dawn for aviation brings with it real opportunities for the UK aerospace sector to secure market share, highly skilled jobs and inward investment while helping to meet the UK’s commitments to fight climate change.”

The FlyZero plans to publish three final aircraft concepts for regional, narrowbody and midsize planes in 2022, alongside technology roadmaps, market reports and sustainability assessments, it said.

Technological challenges remain in the development of green hydrogen aircraft, including the need to develop infrastructure and equipment on the ground for refuelling. The first concept designs seek to identify on-board technologies that will need to be developed to deliver hydrogen powered planes, such as wings without fuel tanks – known as ‘dry wings’ – hydrogen tanks, cryogenic fuel systems, fuel cells and electrical power systems and hydrogen gas turbines, the developers explained.

The concept design has been unveiled ahead of the fouth meeting of the UK government’s Jet Zero Council, a public-private forum chaired by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps which was set up last year to focus on low carbon solutions for aviation, such as electric, hydogen of biofuelled flight. 

Shapps hailed the “pioneering design for a liquid hydrogen-powered aircraft” unveiled today which he said “brings us one step closer to a future where people can continue to travel and connect, but without the carbon footprint”.

“I will continue to work closely with the Jet Zero Council to support the UK’s world-leading research in this sector, which will create green jobs, help us meet our ambitious net zero targets and lead the global transition to net zero aviation,” he said.

It follows the government’s announcement in October that is plans to invest £180m towards developing the UK’s sustainable aviation biofuels (SAF) industry, including through a £15m competition launched in March to reward new technologies for developing SAF.

The government today unveiled the eight successful bidders which will take a share of the £15m funding to develop their projects, including Advanced Biofuels Solutions’ plan to build a waste-to-fuel gasification plant in Cheshire; LanzaTech’s and plan to build a facility using direct air carbon capture technoogy developed by Carbon Engineering capable of producing 100 million tonnes per year of SAF per year; and Velocys’ plan to develop an waste-to-SAF production plant in Lincolnshire.

The government said all projects securing funding had the potential to produce SAF capable of reducing emissions by more than 70 per cent on a lifecycle basis compared to conventional fossil jet fuel.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the designs unveiled today “could define the future of aerospace and aviation”.

“By working with industry, we are showing that truly carbon free flight could be possible, with hydrogen a front runner to replace conventional fossil fuels,” he said. “Fuelling planes sustainably will enable the public to travel as we do now, but in a way that doesn’t damage the planet. It will not only help us to end our contribution to climate change, but also represents a huge industrial opportunity for the UK.”

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