Airbus and Air New Zealand’s hydrogen partnership is entering the next stage with the inclusion of New Zealand’s key hydrogen ecosystem players. The ‘Hydrogen Consortium’ will seek to advance hydrogen-powered commercial flight and develop hubs at airports across the country, starting with Christchurch International Airport.

Airbus expands New Zealand hydrogen drive

Joining Airbus and Air New Zealand in the consortium are Christchurch International Airport, green energy firm Fortescue Future Industries (FFI), Hiringa Energy and hydrogen company Fabrum. The coalition will work together to “widen and affirm the consortium’s understanding of hydrogen-powered aircraft concepts and operations, hydrogen supply, hydrogen infrastructure and fuelling requirements at airports.”

Karine Guenan, Vice President ZEROe Ecosystem at Airbus, said,

“The consortium is built with a great synergy in the respective partners’ expertise combining: airline, airport, hydrogen technology providers, hydrogen facilities developers, and hydrogen aircraft and airframe developer. This unique combination of skills in the end-to-end hydrogen value chain promises very high learnings and a successful study and roadmap for aviation and non-aviation hydrogen usage at airports.”

The next six months will see consortium partners develop a ‘hydrogen ecosystem’ for aviation in New Zealand – including proposed policies, regulations and incentives – and focus on research until the end of 2023. Following this, the second phase will explore whether hydrogen aircraft test flights can be held in New Zealand – the country’s flag carrier, Air New Zealand, is eager to replace its Bombardier Q300 fleet with low-emission planes and also plans to fly its first commercial demonstrator flight from 2026.

Hydrogen hubs across New Zealand

In 2020, Airbus announced its ‘Hydrogen Hubs in Airports’ initiative and has since signed agreements with several airports, airlines and energy providers across Europe, Asia-Pacific and North America. As for New Zealand, the first hydrogen hub will be established at Christchurch International Airport (CHC) before expanding to airports across the country.

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Airbus said,

“Ultimately, the partners will evaluate the means of deploying hydrogen hubs at airports, starting with the case study at Christchurch. If successful, commercial hydrogen-powered aviation could be extended to cover the entirety of New Zealand’s domestic network.”

CHC recently announced plans to develop a 400-hectare renewable energy zone called Kowhai Park and also holds a partnership with Hamburg Finkenwerder Airport to develop hydrogen infrastructure for aviation. Since 2016, Christchurch has reduced emissions by up to 90% and grown into a global leader in mentoring airports on the decarbonization process.

Christchurch Airport CEO Justin Watson added,

“Major progress is being made. There have been successful test flights of zero-emission aircraft already. There are new sustainable aviation fuels that can cut emissions by up to 80% and a huge amount of research is going into how to commercialize these solutions. The Hydrogen Consortium will see some of the world’s best experts collaborate on one of the most promising zero emission fuels – green hydrogen.”

NZ offers unique opportunity

As Airbus elaborates, the aviation scene in New Zealand represents a “unique opportunity” to explore green energy solutions given the country’s high reliance on renewable energy (around 80% of national needs) and extensive short-haul domestic market, with over 60% of flights connecting destinations within 350 km.

Karine Guenan commented,

“New Zealand is a perfect aviation network, in terms of traffic, flight distances and airport network, for the deployment of regional to medium-haul hydrogen aircraft, to be developed within Airbus’ ZEROe project. This is fully in line with the ZEROe strategy to first study and deploy Hydrogen aviation ecosystems in the most suitable parts of the world. New Zealand has a great potential for hydrogen production from renewable electricity sources.”

As part of its ZEROe project, Airbus hopes to debut the world’s first hydrogen-powered commercial aircraft by 2035 – the planemaker has come up with three emission-free aircraft designs powered by hydrogen combustion through modified gas turbine engines​​​​​​.

Extracted in full from: Airbus & Air New Zealand Partner To Deploy New Hydrogen Hub (