(Reuters) – Air New Zealand Ltd said on Thursday it was studying how it could use low-carbon technologies like electric, hybrid or hydrogen powered planes to dramatically reduce emissions from shorter and regional flights as soon as 2030.
The airline signed a memorandum of understanding with Airbus SE to research the impact hydrogen planes would have on Air New Zealand’s network, operations and infrastructure.
Airbus said it is hoping to bring a hydrogen plane to market by 2035 – a goal some industry officials and analysts believe to be ambitious.
This agreement brings us a step closer to “seeing low carbon solutions in place for our shorter domestic and regional flights in the next decade,” said Air New Zealand Chief Executive Greg Foran.
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 around 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 for configuration and performance for zero-emissions planes.
“We are also talking to several airlines on similar studies,” said a Airbus spokesperson.
It is the latest environmental technology initiative for Air New Zealand, which in 2018 partnered with turboprop manufacturer ATR, part-owned by Airbus, to examine hybrid-electric regional aircraft.
Airbus last year unveiled three visual concepts for hyrdogen-powered planes and set itself a deadline of 2035 to put a carbon-free commercial aircraft in service, a target engine makers like Safran have described as ambitious.
The European planemaker says radical technology is needed to help the industry meet climate goals, but U.S. rival Boeing Co is more cautious, saying sustainable liquid fuels will contribute most to efforts to decarbonise the aviation sector because of the infrastructure needed to support hydrogen.
Airbus in June told European Union officials that most airliners will rely on traditional jet engines until at least 2050, with zero-emission hydrogen planes primarily focused on regional and shorter-range aircraft from 2035.
(Reporting by Jamie Freed in Sydney; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa)