French Airport to Become the First Hydrogen Ecosystem for Future Hybrid Aircraft

The Airbus Zero E Turbofan concept is a future hybrid aircraft that will require a hydrogen-based infrastructure 7 photos
Photo: Airbus
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When it comes to a clean, sustainable future for the automotive industry, it’s not just about the vehicles themselves, but also (some say even more) about the infrastructure. While EV (electric vehicle) development is still tackling the challenge of effective charging station networks, aviation is starting to focus on airport transformation, for future hydrogen-powered aircraft.
Until sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) becomes available on a large scale and as effective as conventional fuel, the hydrogen-electric alternative is seen as the most feasible solution for green aviation. But, in order to start operating hybrid airplanes, airlines also require the right infrastructure for hydrogen production, refueling and maintenance.

Airbus has joined forces with Air Liquide (a specialist in the hydrogen value chain, from production to distribution) and Vinci Airports (an international private airport operator), to develop a groundbreaking hydrogen hub, as the first step towards a future European airport network for hydrogen aircraft.

The Lyon-Saint Exupéry Airport (Vinci’s innovation center) is where the project will be implemented. The first step is a hydrogen gas distribution station, for the airport’s vehicles, such as buses and trucks, as well as the cargo vehicles that drive in the airport area. This phase will begin as soon as 2023.

Next, the three partners will develop the infrastructure for liquid hydrogen, with the purpose of adapting for the tanks of future hybrid aircraft. The final phase of the project will complete the infrastructure, so that everything from production to mass distribution, will be done at the airport.

These steps will, of course, take much longer to unfold, but Airbus hopes that by 2030 Vinci Airports’ entire European network will be equipped with the facilities needed for hydrogen production, storage and refueling.

Airbus introduced the “Hydrogen hub at airports” concept in 2020, as a highly-effective ecosystem that would supply not only future aircraft, but also all the airport logistics and transportation vehicles.

Like Toyota’s hydrogen-based cities of the future, airports could produce liquid hydrogen locally, store it and distribute it – all in one place, for maximum efficiency, low costs and a low environmental footprint.
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About the author: Otilia Drăgan
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Otilia believes that if it’s eco, green, or groundbreaking, people should know about it (especially if it's got wheels or wings). Working in online media for over five years, she's gained a deeper perspective on how people everywhere can inspire each other.
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