This week I was lucky enough to stop off from my weekly journey from Llanelli to Westminster, to visit Cotswolds Airport to see the development of a hydrogen powered aircraft by a company called ZeroAvia. I saw how they are improving the design to make the hydrogen cells compact enough to fit into the aircraft to power the electric engines, and light enough to facilitate maximum flying range.
Just so exciting: zero carbon, cleaner air and a very impressive timescale: they are already able to power a small aircraft and hope to be in commercial production by 2025, starting with 9-seater ‘planes, cargo ‘planes and moving up within a couple of years to 80 seaters…….. and thus covering the needs of internal flights.
But the added value of being at the very forefront of innovation is the potential for export to the many countries where internal flights provide vital links, including to island communities. And in the slightly longer term, to refine the technology for much larger aircraft.
Initially, rather than building new aircraft, the bulk of the work will be retrofitting existing aircraft with the hydrogen cells and electric engines. Of course this technology will only be zero carbon if the hydrogen is green hydrogen, which means that the electricity that is needed to produce the hydrogen must come from renewable sources. So the vision is for airports to develop renewable energy and use it to make hydrogen on site to refuel the ‘planes.
In order to make sure that we get on with moving
towards net-zero and that we reap those export opportunities, the UK Government
needs to provide the necessary support to move from the research and
development stage to manufacturing, as well as the appropriate incentives to
develop the hydrogen infrastructure at airports. I shall be pushing for that to