EasyJet to trial hydrogen-powered engine in UK deal with Rolls-Royce

The aim of the tests is for planes to be powered solely by hydrogen by the mid-2030s

FILE PHOTO: Passengers board an easyJet plane at the Nantes-Atlantique airport in Bouguenais near Nantes, France, April 4, 2019. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe/File Photo  GLOBAL BUSINESS WEEK AHEAD
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EasyJet has sealed a deal with Rolls-Royce to test a hydrogen-powered engine on its aircraft.

The H2Zero partnership will involve the budget airline and the British manufacturer working together to take the eco-friendly technology into the skies.

They hope the agreement will pave the way for a wide range of aircraft to be powered solely by hydrogen by the mid-2030s.

The pact announced on Tuesday, the second day of the Farnborough International Airshow, comes a day after Rolls-Royce said it would hold ground tests of its UK-made AE2100 engine in Britain and the US. The trials in the UK will begin this year, while those scheduled to take place across the Atlantic have not been given a specified date.

The programme will build on initial hydrogen combustion and fuel system rig tests that Rolls-Royce is undertaking with both Cranfield University in Bedfordshire and Loughborough University in Leicestershire.

H2Zero is inspired by the global, UN-backed Race to Zero campaign that EasyJet and Rolls-Royce have signed up to, committing to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Johan Lundgren, chief executive of EasyJet, said “radical action” is essential to reach the mid-century goal.

He said the technology being trialled “has the potential to power EasyJet-size aircraft, which is why we will also be making a multi-million-pound investment into this programme.”

“In order to achieve decarbonisation at scale, progress on the development of zero-emission technology for narrow-body aircraft is crucial,” he added.

“Together with Rolls-Royce, we look forward to leading the industry to tackle this challenge head-on.”

Grazia Vittadini, chief technology and strategy officer at Rolls-Royce, said the partnership with the carrier is “a big step forward” for the engine manufacturer. He said “we are excited to be working with a partner that shares a desire to innovate and find new answers to aviation’s biggest challenges.”

“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,” she added. “This agreement further inspires us to move forward.”

Updated: July 19, 2022, 10:30 AM