Air New Zealand studying how to add low-emissions planes to fleet

Auckland, Sept. 16 (BNA) Air New Zealand Ltd said Thursday it is studying how to use low-carbon technologies such as electric, hybrid or hydrogen-powered aircraft to significantly reduce emissions from shorter, regional flights by 2030.

The airline has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Airbus SE to research the impact of hydrogen aircraft on Air New Zealand’s network, operations and infrastructure.

Airbus has said it hopes to bring a hydrogen jet to market by 2035 – a goal that some industry officials and analysts believe is ambitious.

This agreement brings us closer to “seeing low-carbon solutions in place for our shorter domestic and regional flights in the next decade,” said Greg Foran, CEO of Air New Zealand.

Airbus has already struck similar hydrogen study deals with EasyJet and SAS in Europe as airlines around the world look to meet ambitious emissions targets in line with government commitments.

Aviation accounts for about 2.5% of global carbon emissions.

The European manufacturer said the agreement with Air New Zealand would help it gather feedback on airlines’ expectations and preferences regarding the configuration and performance of the zero-emissions aircraft.

“We are also talking with several airlines about similar studies,” an Airbus spokesperson said.

It’s the latest environmental technology initiative of Air New Zealand, which in 2018 partnered with turbocharged maker ATR, partly owned by Airbus, to screen hybrid-electric regional aircraft.

Airbus last year unveiled three visual concepts for hydrogen-powered aircraft and set itself a 2035 deadline to put a carbon-neutral commercial jet into service, which target engine makers like Safran have described as ambitious.

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The European aircraft maker says radical technology is needed to help the industry meet climate goals, but US rival Boeing is more cautious, saying sustainable liquid fuels will contribute more to efforts to decarbonize the aviation sector due to the infrastructure needed to support hydrogen.

Airbus told EU officials in June that most aircraft will be based on conventional jet engines until at least 2050, with zero-emissions hydrogen jets focusing primarily on regional and shorter-range aircraft from 2035.

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