Ambitious carbon-reduction goals have led airframers to pursue longer-term, more-revolutionary technologies rather than bringing incremental efficiency improvements to market faster, according to a top Airbus executive.
Asked if Airbus might be able to launch a new-aircraft project sooner if not for broad interest in significantly cutting carbon output, Airbus chief commercial officer Christian Scherer says, “Yes.”
“The consciousness of needing to decarbonise our industry… should lead every rational observer to the conclusion that doing a new airplane with… current technology is not going to allow this ecosystem to meet the targets it has just, through the voice of IATA, underwritten today,” Scherer says.
He spoke on 4 October during IATA’s World Air Transport Summit.
Earlier the same day, IATA approved a resolution calling on the globe’s airline industry to achieve “net-zero” carbon emissions by 2050. The path to achieving that goal remains unclear, though the industry is pursuing hydrogen fuel and sustainable aviation fuel, both of which come with a fair share of challenges.
Airbus has committed itself to hydrogen power.
Scherer insists Airbus fully intends to meet its goal of introducing a hydrogen-powered airliner by the mid-2030s.
“Our company carries some degree of credibility in this industry,” Scherer says. “If we say [that] by 2035 we’re going to have a hydrogen-powered or hydrogen-based vehicle in the air. That’s what we mean,” Scherer says.
Airbus and Boeing have not disclosed what might replace their existing narrowbodies, which are based on decades-old designs. Meanwhile, insiders suspect that airframers, before launching replacements, need engine makers to develop significantly more efficient powerplants.
The major engine manufacturers are working on several innovative projects – including un-ducted fans and hybrid-electric propulsion. But such technologies are widely expected to not be commercially viable for at least a decade.