New ICCT study identifies significant potential to reduce aviation fuel consumption by up to 40% by 2034
A new report from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) identifies significant potential to reduce aviation emissions through emerging fuel efficiency technologies.
The study summarizes the results of the first independent, bottom-up cost assessment of near- (2024) and mid-term (2034) technologies to improve new aircraft fuel efficiency. Carried out in cooperation with a panel of top technical experts and consultants using NASA and DoD-approved models to evaluate aviation technology programs, the study concludes that the rate of fuel efficiency improvement for new aircraft can be more than doubled through 2034, from about 1% today to 2.2% annually, by the adoption of cost effective technologies to improve engine efficiency, reduce aerodynamic drag, and trim aircraft empty weight.
The more than 45 discrete technologies examined were grouped into technology packages, ensuring that mutually exclusive technologies were not deployed on the same aircraft. Each package was modeled into the baseline aircraft and “flown” to assess its improved performance.
|Sample fuel-saving technologies. Source: The ICCT. Click to enlarge.|
Key findings include:
The fuel consumption of new aircraft can be reduced by approximately 25% in 2024 and 40% in 2034 compared with today’s aircraft by deploying emerging cost-effective technologies. These improvements dwarf the fuel efficiency of new “project” aircraft designs (mostly re-engined aircraft) being brought to market by manufacturers today.
The fuel savings of the 2024 cost-effective improvements are roughly double those seen for new aircraft designs being brought to market by manufacturers today in response to market forces alone, which are projected to burn between 9% and 13% less fuel than today’s aircraft with similar seating configurations.
Airlines could reduce their fuel spending over the 2025 to 2050 time frame by 19% compared with the baseline case by adopting cost-effective technologies. If passed along to the consumer, these savings could lower ticket prices by up to $20 for short-haul flights and $105 for long-haul flights.
Additional efficiency gains are possible but will require government support through policies like efficiency standards, carbon pricing, and research support for technology development.
Lower fuel prices have the potential to slow the deployment of fuel-efficient technologies in new aircraft, with more pronounced effects in the mid-term as the universe of potential technologies expands.
|Trends in new aircraft fuel burn by entry into service year, 1980 to 2040. Source: The ICCT. Click to enlarge.|
The substantial gap between the improvements identified in this study and the products being brought to market for delivery highlights the need for public policies to promote aircraft fuel efficiency, including robust performance standards for new aircraft; economic incentives to provide market pull for new technologies by promoting fleet turnover; and research support to defray the costs of maturing new technologies.—Kharina et al.
Anastasia Kharina, Daniel Rutherford, Mazyar Zeinali (2016) “Cost Assessment Of Near And Mid-Term Technologies To Improve New Aircraft Fuel Efficiency”