A Commercial Flight Using Hydrogen for Fuel
Over the course of history, passionate aviators have been truly innovating, and achieving amazing feats has not stopped their ambitions. Although we have accomplished more than what was even imaginable before, current innovators are attempting once again to change the game. Aviation firm ZeroAvia, partnered with airport company Royal Schiphol Group, Rotterdam the Hague Innovation Airport Foundation, and Rotterdam the Airport, have set forth a timeline to a 19-seater aircraft capable of operating on just Hydrogen.
The route will be flown between the UK and the Netherlands, ZeroAvia says the timeline is solid for the launch of the first zero-emission commercial passenger flights, possibly the first international commercial operation in the world. They went on to state they were in “advanced partnership talks with airlines” in order to determine the operator.
Though very impressive, this will not be the companies first launch with the use of hydrogen fuel cells, ZeroAvia’s has placed a focus on powering electric motors with these zero-emission fuel cells. In September of 2020, they completed a voyage in a six-seater hydrogen fuel-cell plane. For the first time in the world.
This was simply a step in the right direction, but current experiments with larger aircraft make it that much more feasible to one day see paying passengers on zero-emission commercial flights. Especially with the scope of competition, with other companies announcing their plans for hydrogen-based flights as well. Though, critics remain skeptical on timelines and the ability to replace carbon aviation.
Journey to Hydrogen Fueled Commercial Flights
If history taught us anything, it is that humans constantly have found challenges that seemed impossible to solve and made those their mission to prove attainable. It was truly inevitable for humans to desire a way to travel across the skies, just as the many birds we observe daily in nature. Studying their movements and how they interacted with the wind to maximize glide time, or even the grouping together to mitigate air resistance.
The child-like wonder would turn to direct challenges for innovators across the world, and a few would change our lives forever. Intelligent and brave aviators would bring to us vehicles capable of flight, and some daredevils would take it upon themselves to push those vehicles’ limits.
Fast-forward to modern times and any given day there can be a few hundred people traveling across the vast sky. Though this wonderful accomplishment that connected the farthest of reaches of the world has its drawbacks, in the form of harmful emissions. As discussed in AMI Aero Marine Interior, Inc.’s previous blog, “Breakthrough Tech to Change Future of Airplane Travel?” :
During thermal propulsion, the use of fossil fuels emits NOx, CO2, and other particulates that cause damage to our environment. Not only does this emission occur during use, but the heat actually burns two-thirds of fuel energy into wasteful heat that is lost out of the exhaust. The article states that advances are being made into curbing this loss of energy, but until then it does not seem like the most efficient method compared to our theoretical alternative.AMI Aero Marine Interior, Inc.
In this blog, the theoretical alternative being discussed was electric propulsion, another option that will help reduce harmful emissions in our atmosphere, in comparison to the alternatives being discussed today, Hydrogen propulsion essentially. According to research being done, the introduction and development of these alternatives couldn’t have come sooner.
Need for Hydrogen Commercial Flights?
History has proved that basic human nature is to first innovate and worry about consequences later. This is evidenced by our continued use of fossil fuels that give off harmful emissions into our atmosphere, while fully aware of the damage being done. Other examples can be the implementation of dams, the use of materials that cannot be disposed of without giving more harmful chemicals, and even the cutting down of trees.
Dams were useful to us but extremely detrimental to the ecosystem that they would affect. Predators would lose food, fish would lose common areas for reproduction, and the domino effect would eventually touch every inhabitant nearby. Plastic became a staple product for humans as well, from packaging to utensils the versatile product became incorporated in everything. Although, disposing of this product was not as convenient as its uses, leaving harmful chemicals to damage the atmosphere around us. Lastly, trees were cut down for many reasons, even though we have been fully conscious of the fact that they literally provide elements of what we need to breathe.
For centuries innovation and capitalism have ruled, but experts have expressed the urgency of our situation for so long that innovators have diverted their expertise to challenges we truly do need to overcome. With the world’s brightest minds focused on more eco-friendly products, we have been able to have options that don’t threaten the environment around us. Perhaps it has come time to change our commute across the world into a more eco-friendly trip.
CNBC cited the International Energy Agency in their blog “Commercial flights that fly ‘entirely on hydrogen’ planned for 2024“, as stating that carbon dioxide emissions from aviation have rapidly risen over the past two decades. The International Energy Agency states that aviation emissions hit almost 1 metric gigaton in 2019, about 2.8% of global CO2 emission from fossil fuel combustion.
The same blog from CNBC cited the World Wildlife Fund’s description of aviation being one of the fastest-growing sources of the greenhouse emissions that drive global climate change and air travel being the most carbon-intensive activity done by an individual. With these types of descriptions circulating over the past few decades, prominent companies have been able to catch on to the obvious need for eco-friendly means of transportation.
A Promising Future
The aerospace industry is not the only travel-related industry taking an interest in providing more environmentally friendly options to the public. As discussed in our previous blog, “Breakthrough Tech to Change Future of Airplane Travel?“, many manufacturers of aircraft and automobiles have had keen interests in electric propulsion. Along with truly making a difference in the world around us, and the trajectory of the health of our world, these innovators can be motivated by the notoriety that would come along with replacing our harmful practices.
Although, it’s easy to assume these corporation heads would be passionate and motivated by the prospect of setting the world on a better path, reality hits when considering the egos of some of these corporations’ leaders. If this was their motivation, actions would have been taken in pursuit of this goal long ago when it was not a popular opinion to assume we were harming our atmosphere. Though now that it has become a very mainstream understanding, innovators are practically tripping over themselves to solve our environmental issues, or at the very least contain it further.
Whatever the motivation, our society is fortunate for the ambitious pursuit of making a sustainable change. Whether or not these goals are realized within our lifetimes, our following generations will surely see the direction innovation should be heading and, if possible, accomplish zero-emission travel.
Though, harmful emissions are not the only factor affecting the health of our environment. Check non-profit organizations’ websites to learn more about how you can make a difference in your day-to-day life. We all have the potential to change the trajectory of the future of our children. Implementing knowledge in them from a young age about the importance of respecting their environment can only lead to a generation of environmentalist innovators!