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Airbus wants to build its first engine - for its new eco-plane

Ever since its inception, Airbus has installed subcontracted engines under the wings of its aircraft.

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Airbus wants to build its first engine - for its new eco-plane

Ever since its inception, Airbus has installed subcontracted engines under the wings of its aircraft. That could change in the future. In order to achieve its goal of launching a largely emission-free aircraft on the market by 2035, Airbus is now developing its own eco-engine.

It is based on liquid hydrogen as a fuel, which is converted into electricity in a fuel cell. This then supplies an electric motor for a propeller drive with energy. The aircraft manufacturer announced that the engine could be used in zero-emission aircraft.

With the announcement, Airbus is interfering in the market of established engine manufacturers and putting them under development pressure. In addition, Airbus could open up a new business area.

The eco engine in the megawatt class will first be tested on a giant Airbus A380 as an additional engine, said fuel cell development chief Hauke ​​Luedders at the group's headquarters in Toulouse.

The fuel cell engine would then be an alternative to an eco-engine concept in which hydrogen is injected into an adapted turbine engine from the US manufacturer General Electric. This engine will also be tested first on a converted giant Airbus. In both concepts, chilled liquid hydrogen would be stored in special tanks in the fuselage.

Airbus sees itself as a pioneer in bringing zero-emission aircraft to market. In 2028, the aircraft manufacturer wants to decide which engine technology and which aircraft concept to choose for an aircraft with 100 or 200 passengers.

Airbus is pushing hydrogen as a fuel – at least for short and medium-haul routes. There are different concepts of how hydrogen could be used as a fuel. Direct injection into a turbine engine would also be possible.

For long-haul routes, however, experts currently see no alternative to environmentally friendly fuel (SAF) as a kerosene substitute. However, SAF is currently still many times more expensive than conventional kerosene, and the quantities produced are minimal. With the addition of SAF to conventional kerosene, as the EU is striving for, flight ticket prices will become more expensive.

As a future hydrogen aircraft, Airbus is currently investigating three to four different aircraft concepts, including a so-called flying wing model because there is no clear separation between the wings and the fuselage. Experts speak of a blended wing body model.

According to current knowledge, however, the flying wing concept is “the least likely,” said Airbus manager Glenn Llewellyn. It would not make sense for a new aircraft to change both the aircraft concept and the engine at the same time.

Airbus has not yet decided whether its own development of a fuel cell electric drive system with hydrogen fuel will actually be used in its eco-aircraft. The flight tests on the giant Airbus A380 would also show this. Airbus is working on the fuel cell with the German company Elring Klinger in the Aerostack joint venture.

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