Government urged to boost investment in development of hydrogen flights

Aviation leaders believe hydrogen-powered air travel will be “a profitable industry”, but the UK government must boost investment in the technology to avoid losing out to other nations.

EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren led calls for increased spending as he warned a significant amount of money is required to develop hydrogen as an alternative to traditional jet fuel.

He believes the carrier will operate its first hydrogen-fuelled flights by 2040.

Mr Lundgren said: “It’s without doubt that the UK is well-placed to be a global leader in hydrogen – but the opportunity will be gone if we do not act now to build on all the great work that has already been done.”

He claimed it will likely be a “profitable investment”, but acknowledged any returns will not be “short-term”.

He said: “The barriers to entry in this market are also quite high.

“I think it’s important to recognise that investment in this needs to be looked upon in the longer timescale and that’s the reason why you can’t just expect companies to bounce in on this.”

He added: “It is really an infrastructure play that the Government is going to need to help support, which they have been, and in the discussions we’ve had they are very positive.”

In February last year, the Government announced it would invest £113 million in new aviation technologies, including hydrogen-powered flights.

The only waste product from using hydrogen as a fuel is water, leading to hopes it could power commercial aircraft without creating carbon emissions.

EasyJet is among a group of aviation and renewable energy companies that are part of the Hydrogen in Aviation (HIA) alliance formed in September last year.

Other members include Rolls-Royce, Airbus, Orsted, GKN Aerospace, Bristol Airport and ZeroAvia.

The group published a report on Monday outlining the steps it believes the UK must follow to maintain its position as “a global leader in hydrogen-powered aviation”.

These include securing “massive increases in hydrogen supply”, providing investment in new infrastructure, and ensuring airports are able to accommodate the technology.

Russ Dunn, chief technology officer at GKN Aerospace, said hydrogen offers the potential for “a very exciting carbon-free future of flight”.

He went on: “The UK now needs to commit to this at a national level – to truly coordinate efforts and seize the opportunity that is in front of us.

“Now is the time to prepare for and enable the huge sustainability and economic potential of hydrogen for both the aviation industry and wider economy.”

Alan Newby, director of research and technology at Rolls-Royce said: “We believe in the potential of hydrogen-powered flight, and we are making good progress in developing the key technology building blocks required to make it a reality.

“This is an ambitious but necessary challenge.”