Sustainable Aviation Needs Airports to Become Complex Hydrogen-Based Ecosystems

Airbus wants to transform airports into hydrogen-based ecosystems. 1 photo
Photo: Airbus
Ever since electric vehicles took center stage, the infrastructure issue has been on everybody’s lips. And the same goes for the electrification of maritime transport and aviation. It’s not enough to focus only on making vehicles green, a sustainable infrastructure is just as important.
Airports could and should play a vital role in making aviation more sustainable. Not only could hydrogen be obtained and liquefied in centers located at airports, for convenience, but every form of transportation that’s specific to these locations should also become emission-free.

Airbus introduced the Hydrogen Hub at Airports concept last year, as a starting point for future research related to low-carbon airport operations, as well as understanding the infrastructure requirements for hydrogen-powered aircraft.

If hydrogen is the best solution for sustainable flight operations (and Airbus believes so), then it must be at the center of the entire chain.

This way, we’ll enjoy not only less flight emissions, but also reduced CO2 emissions from on-ground airport activities.

These activities are responsible for 2-3% of the aviation industry’s emissions, the equivalent of 15–20 megatons of CO2 emissions every year, around the globe. What Airbus wants to do is to develop an innovative airport ecosystem built around hydrogen.

Similar in some ways to the Toyota hydrogen-based cities of the future, this ecosystem would not only sustain aircraft that run on hydrogen by producing it locally, but also make sure that airport vehicles, logistics transport and ground transportation are all using clean energy.

Cargo trucks, aircraft tugs, passenger shuttles that take them to and from aircraft – all of these should switch from fossil fuel to a carbon neutral alternative. And, by producing hydrogen at airports instead of at remote production sites, there would be no more need for carrying it from one location to another, which further cuts CO2 emissions.

At the moment, this is still just a concept. Airbus has started working with multiple airline customers and airport operators, to determine the precise infrastructure requirements for future hybrid and hydrogen jets. These studies, which will be completed by the end of the year, will bring new insights for turning future airport ecosystems into reality.
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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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