Rolls-Royce and easyJet Are Gearing up to Develop Hydrogen-Electric Propulsion Systems

Rolls-Royce is one of the biggest aircraft engine manufacturers in the world, but it's transitioning to green technology 6 photos
Photo: Rolls-Royce
Rolls-Royce EngineRolls-Royce EngineRolls-Royce EngineRolls-Royce ResearchEurofighter with a Rolls-Royce engine
2021 was a landmark year for aviation’s commitment to a green, sustainable future. Government officials, aircraft manufacturers, airlines, and various other actors in the industry have each contributed in some way to advancing green technologies. And work is just beginning.
From multiple projects that support the use of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and research programs for emission-free propulsion systems to several pioneering demonstrations of SAF-powered aircraft or electric aircraft, the aviation industry has made some significant steps this year towards a more sustainable future. Although the infamous net-zero emissions goal by 2050 is much more challenging for this sector compared to the automotive one, changes are still taking place.

Rolls-Royce is one of the names at the forefront of these changes, with a complex strategy that includes making sure that the next-generation mtu engines are compatible with SAF, a new, state-of-the-art aerospace testing facility in Indiana, plus several projects revolving around hydrogen fuel cell system and electric propulsions systems – seen as the long-term answer for sustainable aviation.

The aerospace expert’s future research program, recently announced, will be carried out together with easyJet. The two-year-long study, starting in January 2022, will focus on several low-carbon and zero-emissions technologies and how they can be best applied to commercial aircraft. This extensive project will analyze all the elements involved in the operation ecosystem, from full production to transportation, storage, and handling. The goal is to accelerate the development of electrical and hydrogen-based power systems.

SAF is currently considered the fastest way to drastically cut CO2 emission levels, but researching and developing alternative propulsion systems is the key to transforming aviation on a deeper level.

EasyJet has been actively involved in sustainability projects even since 2016, when it was working with the Cranfield University in Bedfordshire, to develop and install a hydrogen cell container in the airplane’s cargo hold in order to store energy while taxiing. It might seem like a small change from today’s perspective, but it was an ambitious step at the time.

The airline operator believes that electricity and hydrogen fuel cells could change short-haul flights in the near future.
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Editor's note: Gallery shows other airplanes fitted with Rolls-Royce engines and Rolls-Royce turbofans.

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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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