Rolls-Royce and easyJet have completed the world’s first successful trial of a jet engine powered by hydrogen fuel.
The ground test was conducted on the engine using green hydrogen produced by wind and tidal power generated in the Orkney Islands in Scotland.
It took place at Ministry of Defence site Boscombe Down in Wiltshire, south-west England, using a converted Rolls-Royce AE 2100-A aircraft engine, which is widely used by planes around the world.
The companies, which are aiming to prove hydrogen can safely and efficiently power civil plane engines, are planning to conduct a second set of trials.
Flight tests remain a longer-term ambition.
Grazia Vittadini, chief technology officer for Rolls-Royce, said: “We only announced our partnership with easyJet in July and we are already off to an incredible start with this landmark achievement. We are pushing the boundaries to discover the zero-carbon possibilities of hydrogen, which could help reshape the future of flight.”
Johan Lundgren, chief executive of easyJet, said the test represented a “huge step forward” in reaching the companies' shared goal of attaining net zero by 2050.
“This is a real success for our partnership team," he added.
“We are committed to continuing to support this ground-breaking research because hydrogen offers great possibilities for a range of aircraft, including easyJet-sized aircraft.”
After analysis of the early concept ground test, the partnership plans a series of rig tests, leading up to a full-scale ground test of a Rolls-Royce Pearl 15 jet engine.
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Grant Shapps, said it was a “true British success story”.
“The UK is leading the global shift to guilt-free flying, and today’s test by Rolls-Royce and easyJet is an exciting demonstration of how business innovation can transform the way we live our lives,” he said.
“This is a true British success story, with the hydrogen being used to power the jet engine today produced using tidal and wind energy from the Orkney Islands of Scotland — and is a prime example of how we can work together to make aviation cleaner while driving jobs across the country.”
The partnership is inspired by the global, UN-backed Race to Zero campaign.