Rolls-Royce, the aerospace giant (not to be misunderstood with BMW-owned Rolls-Royce Motor Cars), announced Tuesday that it had teamed up to test and develop hydrogen combustion engine technology for aircraft. This announcement comes after Rolls-Royce announced earlier this week that hydrogen-powered aircraft engines will be tested.
Rolls-Royce, a London-based company, stated in a statement that testing should start this year. Both companies share a common ambition to bring technology to the skies. Rolls-Royce stated that the goal of the H2ZERO collaboration is to “prove that hydrogen can be used as a fuel for a variety of aircraft starting in the mid-2030s.”
This year, the firms will perform “early concept ground trials” in the UK of a Rolls-Royce engine that uses hydrogen technology. The technology will then be tested in a Mississippi full-scale test using a Pearl 15 Jet engine.
Johan Lundgren CEO of EasyJet stated that the technology developed through this program could be used on aircraft as large as EasyJet. Progress in the development and deployment of zero-emissions technology to support narrow-body aircraft is crucial for large-scale decarburization.
Hydrogen is used to power internal combustion engines. This is in contrast to hydrogen fuel cell technology which uses gas from a tank to make electricity. Fuel cell vehicles emit only water vapor and warm atmosphere. Hydrogen ICEs, on the other hand, can emit other pollutants. According to a Cummins spokesperson, hydrogen ICEs can emit trace amounts of CO2 but can also produce oxides or NOx.
The environmental impact of aviation is substantial. According to the WWF, it is “one of the fastest-growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions that causes global climate change”.
According to the WWF, air travel is currently the most carbon-intensive human activity.