EasyJet and Rolls-Royce have embarked on an agreement to pioneer the development of hydrogen combustion engine technology with a view to powering a range of aircraft, particularly those in the narrowbody market.
Under a partnership to be known as H2Zero, the companies have committed to on-ground engine testing later this year, pending a later move into the air. “The objective of the partnership is to demonstrate that hydrogen has the potential to power a range of aircraft from the mid-2030s onwards,” the companies said at the Farnborough Airshow.
An expert in engine development and combustion systems, Rolls-Royce hopes to benefit from EasyJet’s operational knowledge and experience. The airline also plans to invest directly in the H2Zero test program.
The initial goal of the program centers on a ground test of a Rolls-Royce AE 2100 engine in the UK this year. A full-scale ground test of a Rolls-Royce Pearl 15 engine will follow, although the trial location remains undecided. The program will build on initial hydrogen combustion and fuel system rig tests that Rolls-Royce is engaged in with both Cranfield and Loughborough universities.
“In order to achieve net zero by 2050, we have always said that radical action is needed to address aviation’s climate impact,” said EasyJet CEO Johan Lundgren. “The technology that emerges from this program has the potential to power easyJet-size aircraft, which is why we will also be making a multi-million-pound investment in this program."
“H2Zero is a big step forward for Rolls-Royce and we are excited to be working with a partner that shares a desire to innovate and find new answers to aviation’s biggest challenges,” said Grazia Vittadini, Rolls-Royce's chief technology and strategy officer. “We at Rolls-Royce want to be ready to pioneer sustainability with whatever the future requires, be it hydrogen, electric power, sustainable aviation fuel, or gas turbine efficiency. This agreement further inspires us to move forward.”