Airbus said late Wednesday that it will open what it calls a Zero Emission Development Center (ZEDC) in Filton, UK, to advance technologies such as a cost-effective cryogenic fuel system for its ZeroE hydrogen-powered airliners now under development. The UK ZEDC will benefit from the recent commitment by the UK government to guarantee £685 million of funding to the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) over the next three years to support the development of zero-carbon and low-emission aircraft. Airbus’s ZeroE program engineers have begun the development of a narrowbody-class, hydrogen-powered aircraft scheduled for entry into service in 2035.
“Establishing the ZEDC in the UK expands Airbus’s in-house industrial capabilities to design, develop, test, and manufacture cryogenic hydrogen storage tanks and related systems for the ZeroE project across Airbus’s four home countries,” said Airbus chief technology officer Sabine Klauke. “This, coupled with our partnership with ATI, will allow us to leverage our respective expertise to realize the potential of hydrogen technology to support the decarbonization of the aviation industry.”
Airbus said technology development at the UK ZEDC has already started and will cover the full product and industrial capabilities, from components to whole-system and cryogenic testing. The company calls fuel-systems development “one of the most complex technologies crucial to the performance of a future hydrogen aircraft.” Plans call for the construction of a new building adjacent to Airbus's existing fuel test facility, a spokesperson told AIN. The company expects to employ about 50 people at the facility in the early stages of its development, by 2024.
The ZEDC complements Airbus’s existing research and technology footprint in the UK, along with the work on cryogenic liquid hydrogen tanks now going on at Airbus’s existing ZEDCs in Stade, Germany, and Madrid (composite structure technologies) and in Nantes, France, and Bremen, Germany (metallic structural technologies). Airbus expects all its ZEDCs to be fully operational and ready for ground testing with the first fully functional cryogenic hydrogen tank next year. The company plans to start flight testing of the tanks in 2026.
The launch of the UK ZEDC follows the opening last June in Filton of the £40 million AIRTeC research and testing facility, which is dedicated to wings, landing gear, and fuel systems and is jointly funded by the ATI and Airbus.