The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

Airbus and Kawasaki Join Forces to Support Hydrogen-Powered Airline Operations

Airbus and Kawasaki Heavy Industries this week signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to jointly study issues related to hydrogen supply, infrastructure, and fuel delivery to support the future deployment of hydrogen-powered commercial aircraft.  
The agreement, signed at a ceremony in Tokyo on April 13 attended by Stéphane Ginoux, head of the North Asia region for Airbus and president of Airbus Japan, and Motohiko Nishimura, executive officer, and deputy general manager of Kawasaki’s Hydrogen Strategy division calls for the companies to prepare a roadmap to address challenges and define an advocacy plan on aviation’s hydrogen needs. Both parties will also embark on projects to pioneer the deployment of a hydrogen infrastructure for aviation with a particular focus on the development of hydrogen hubs at airports. 
“This partnership will obviously accelerate and promote efforts by the Japanese government to achieve a carbon-neutral, decarbonized society from overall aircraft operations in 2050,” said Ginoux. “We strongly believe that the use of hydrogen—both in synthetic fuels and as a primary power source for commercial aircraft—has the potential to significantly reduce aviation's climate impact.”

Under the MoU, Airbus will provide aircraft characteristics, fleet energy usage, and insight on hydrogen-powered aircraft for ground operations. Kawasaki will perform a cost outlook, work on so-called technology drivers on the various elements of the supply chain, and build infrastructure deployment scenarios for the supply of targeted airports.  

Airbus already has forged several other partnerships in the field of hydrogen propulsion, including French industrial gas solutions and technologies company Air Liquide and airport operator Vinci Airports to analyze the possibility of equipping Vinci's European network of 25 airports with the hydrogen production, storage, and supply facilities needed for use on the ground and on aircraft. France’s Lyon-Saint Exupery Airport will serve as the pilot location for the project and will receive a hydrogen gas distribution station in 2023 to supply both the airport's ground vehicles and those of its partners.

This first phase will test the airport's facilities and dynamics as a hydrogen hub.  Air Liquide and Airbus already cooperate in the Ariane space program and share responsibility for the launch vehicles' liquid hydrogen and oxygen storage tanks, from their design to their integration.

Airbus has also signed agreements with four airlines—European budget carrier EasyJet,  SAS Scandinavian Airlines, Air New Zealand, and Delta Air Lines—to study infrastructure needs for future hydrogen-powered aircraft.

Under a project called ZeroE, Airbus revealed three concepts for possible hydrogen-powered airliners in September 2020. The airframer believes it will take about five years to develop and mature the technology and it expects to decide on the most suitable hydrogen technology platform in 2024 or 2025. In February, it announced that aircraft engines group CFM International will be its main partner for the propulsion system for a medium-haul aircraft that it hopes to bring into commercial service from 2035.