Zero-emission aircraft uses various energy sources such as hydrogen, electricity, and solar cells that does not release any harmful emissions/gases or any other particles into the environment. Hydrogen aircraft is a type of zero-emission aircraft that uses hydrogen as fuel and does not emit any environmentally harmful pollutants such as NOx and CO2. These types of power sources are viable options for an aircraft amidst rise in greenhouse effect, high operational costs of aircraft, and rapidly declining reserves of fossil fuels across the world.
According to Allied Market Research, global zero-emission aircraft market is estimated to be around US$ 29.24 billion in 2030 and is estimated to grow at a CAGR of around 20.7% during the forecast period (2030-2040).
Hydrogen and Zero Emission Aircraft Industry Dynamics
The demand for zero emission technology has increased significantly in the recent years. The world is moving toward emission-free transportation in order to bring down the pollution and greenhouse gases. In December 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) introduced the greenhouse gas (GHG) emission standards for aircraft flown by aviation operators. Such increased regulations related to the release of harmful gases by traditional aircraft have forced aircraft manufacturers to increase R&D for finding alternative energy sources for aircraft. Owing to this, aircraft manufacturing companies across the globe are continuously developing & testing zero-emission and hydrogen aircraft technologies using emission free power sources such as electricity, hydrogen, and solar cells among others. In comparison to jet fuel and sustainable aviation fuel such as bio fuel; the use of electric energy, solar energy and hydrogen fuel has drastically reduced the emission of harmful greenhouse gases.
Moreover, the surge in air traffic for passenger commute and cargo shipping has propelled the demand for zero emission aircrafts. At present, aircrafts use fossil fuel for their operation and with the increase in air traffic, the consumption of fossil fuel that emits high pollutants has increased. Owing to this, the demand for alternate energy source aircrafts such as hydrogen aircrafts, zero emission aircrafts has increased. The hydrogen fueled aircraft and zero emission aircraft are lightweight and do not have carbon emissions. Moreover, these aircrafts are much quieter and offer more comfortable flight than the traditional aircrafts, which have propelled demand for these aircrafts.
The zero emission aircrafts such as battery powered/electric aircrafts have low cost of operation and require low maintenance than the fossil fuel aircrafts. Owing to this, the technology has got support from governments and associations across the globe. However, the limited range, less amount of solar energy captured by solar cells, challenges related to low weight to energy ratios associated with electric planes, and low energy density of hydrogen are major forces that restrain in this market. In current scenario, the solar power planes can capture only 10% of the solar energy and these planes have lightweight and fragile solar cells with huge wings that are difficult to use in bad weather conditions. The low energy density of the batteries is one of the major challenges for electric aircrafts. The energy density lithium-ion batteries cells are around 250 Wh/kg in comparison to jet fuel, which has around 12,000 Wh/Kg. The low energy density of the batteries drastically affects the range of aircraft.
Zero emission aircrafts such as hydrogen aircraft is expected to play a crucial role in the decarbonization plans of the global aviation sector as it can power aircraft effectively, emitting water as the only by-product. Under the H2GEAR program, GKN Aerospace is expected to develop technology required for the future of more sustainable aviation industry. This technology is anticipated to focus on enhancing the performance of sub-regional hydrogen-powered aircraft in order to increase the range of an aircraft and prepare them for longer trips. For this R&D program, the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) has provided backing of US$33.1 million. The GKN aerospace is testing the technology, which uses Liquid hydrogen (LH2) by converting it into electricity within a fuel cell system. This technology is expected to eliminate the CO2 emission in future.
As electric aircraft has gained popularity, the R&D for enhancing the battery capacity in order to improve the range and capacity of aircraft has propelled. For instance, in August 2020, British enterprise Oxis Energy claimed that it has developed a safe, significantly light high-density lithium-sulfur (Liz) battery chemistry to be supplied to Texas Aircraft Manufacturing with a 90-kWh, state-of-the-art battery pack to propel the eColt (an electric aircraft with a 2 hour and 370.1 km range). In April 2021, the company announced that it will be offering its solid-state lithium-sulfur (Li-S) batteries to different clients for evaluation. The advent of such high-density, low-weight battery technologies in future is expected to support the development of electric aircraft in the near future.
The outbreak of the novel coronavirus led to sudden closure of international & national airways and the aircrafts had to be grounded for months. In early 2020, various nations imposed ban on international flights, and later the national flights were also suspended. Till now, owing to the dangers of infection, people avoid journeys and this has severely affected the aviation industry across the world. The dramatic change in passenger-behavior that followed the COVID-19 crisis, travel constraints, and the subsequent economic crunch has caused an intense fall in demand for airline services globally. Air transport characterizes only a small part of global GDP, however it is closely associated with the activities related to other industries, particularly the airports and aircraft production – together considered as the aviation industry. The aviation industry is the main contributor to several other economic activities. The aviation industry was hit hard by the implementation of measures to limit the spread of the virus.
The latest estimates by the ICAO reveal the potential loss of around USD 370 million to the aviation sector in 2020. Moreover, according to IATA, the passenger air transport calculated as revenue passenger kilometer was less by 90% year-on-year in April 2020 and was down by 75% in August 2020. The fall in economic activities and trade affected freight revenues. Moreover, the organization even predicted a loss of approximately $290-$322 billion of gross passenger operating revenues of airlines in 2021.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to economic crisis, which resulted in the reduction in expenditure on the next-generation aviation technologies such as hydrogen and electric aircraft. Governments across the globe reduced their spending on other sectors and transferred their investment in improving the healthcare sector to minimize the risks pertaining to the pandemic. The pandemic has even interrupted the activities and initiatives regarding the development of zero emission aircraft. The COVID-19 outbreak is anticipated to delay the developments regarding electric and hydrogen aircraft.
However, as the global air traffic is getting streamlined, the market/developments for zero emission aircraft is expected to increase. For instance, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the global air passenger traffic is anticipated to recover to almost 80% of pre-COVID-19 levels during 2022, and is projected to outdo this level during 2023.
So says a study
According to a recent report published by Allied Market Research, titled, Zero Emission Aircraft Market gives detailed analysis of the pandemic on the market. This includes the current impact on the revenue, sales, and new measures taken by players.