Rolls-Royce and EasyJet Join To Develop Aircraft Engines Using Hydrogen Combustion

The aerospace giant and discount airline plan to begin ground testing later this year.

The partners will develop hydrogen combustion engine technology that can be used to power a variety of aircraft, including narrow-body passenger jets. [Courtesy: EasyJet]

Rolls-Royce and low-cost airline EasyJet have partnered to develop hydrogen combustion engine technology that can be used to power a variety of aircraft, including narrow-body passenger jets. 

Announced early Tuesday by Rolls-Royce, the development program reflects efforts across the aviation industry aimed at achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. 

[Courtesy: Rolls-Royce]

Under the partnership, called H2ZERO, the companies will work together on ground tests of engines beginning later this year, with the goal of demonstrating hydrogen’s potential to power “a range of aircraft from the mid-2030s onwards,” according to Rolls-Royce.

Rolls-Royce said it will bring its expertise in engine development to the project while easyJet will share its knowledge and experience with airline operations and will invest in the test program. The companies said they plan to run ground tests later this year on a  Rolls-Royce AE 2100, which is a widely used turboprop engine. The following series of tests will feature the Rolls-Royce Pearl 15 turbine engine currently used on the Bombardier Global 5500 and 6500.

Rolls-Royce said the planned program will build on testing it is conducting with Cranfield and Loughborough universities in England.

“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,” said Grazia Vittadini, chief technology and strategy officer for Rolls-Royce.

“In order to achieve net zero by 2050, we have always said that radical action is needed to address aviation’s climate impact,” said Johan Lundgren, CEO of EasyJet. “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 into this program,” he added.

Jonathan Welsh is a private pilot who worked as a reporter, editor and columnist with the Wall Street Journal for 21 years, mostly covering the auto industry. His passion for aviation began in childhood with balsa-wood gliders his aunt would buy for him at the corner store. Follow Jonathan on Twitter @JonathanWelsh4
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