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Study finds running a hydrogen plane could be cheaper than traditional aircraft by 2035; requires correct policies and incentives

An economic study by research group Steer, and commissioned by T&E, looked at future operating costs of hydrogen planes on intra-European flights and found that they could be an efficient, cost competitive technology to decarbonize the sector, provided kerosene is taxed adequately. (If fossil kerosene is taxed in line with the Energy Taxation Directive proposal by the European Commission, at €10.75/GJ—approximately €0.37/L.)


Source: T&E

In 2035, running planes on hydrogen could be 8% more expensive than using kerosene. But with a tax on fossil jet fuel and a price on carbon, hydrogen planes could become 2% cheaper to operate than their kerosene counterparts. These pricing measures are key to the deployment of green technologies like hydrogen planes, T&E says.

However, aircraft manufacturer Airbus, which has launched three concepts for hydrogen planes (earlier post), is yet to prove it will be able to meet its planned 2035 launch date for its plane. It has warned that the slow development of the hydrogen ecosystem could delay the launch of its zero-emission planes. Airbus has also opposed a criteria in the EU taxonomy—the EU’s list of sustainable investments—whereby only zero emission aircraft would get a green investment label. This suggests Airbus doubts it will sell many of these aircraft, T&E says.

The analysis also shows that the total cost of deploying hydrogen aircraft for intra-European aviation would be €299 billion by 2050. The development of hydrogen aircraft would only represent 5% of the cost (€15 billion). This relatively small upfront cost must however happen before 2035, or risks jeopardizing the success of these new planes.

The bulk of the spending will not lie within the sector. It instead relies on the wider development of the green hydrogen economy, which is developing in parallel. Over half of the cost (54% or €161 billion) will come down to the production of green hydrogen. Another 23% will be needed for liquefaction of hydrogen. Further costs lie in developing hydrogen infrastructure at airports (12%) and the distribution of the fuel to airports (6%).

The study also shows that the total cost could go down by €100 billion if leisure and business traffic remained respectively at 100% and 50% of 2019 levels. Reducing demand for business travel will not only be key to reduce emissions, but also to save costs, T&E says.

Technological hurdles around the development of hydrogen planes are significant. Liquid hydrogen has low energy density relative to kerosene, meaning that a larger volume of fuel is required to power the same distance. This limits the range of these aircraft, but hydrogen planes can still provide a viable alternative to decarbonise regional and short-haul routes, which represent 50% of Europe’s aviation emissions.

There is no silver bullet to decarbonise aviation. Green fuels, demand reduction and hydrogen will all play a role. For hydrogen planes to take off in the next decade, we need to enter the virtuous circle of regulation, investment, a fall in prices, followed by stronger uptake. But the cost must be shouldered by the aviation industry and its users, by ring fencing part of carbon and kerosene tax revenues for green tech like zero emission planes and clean fuels.

—Carlos López de la Osa, aviation technical manager at T&E



Sensible policies would certainly make a change from the current insanity, where travelling by rail or coach incurs fuel tax, but plane travel doesn't.

New builds for present un-ecological current aircraft are happening at huge scale, in volumes enabled by this exemption.


' In 2035, running planes on hydrogen could be 8% more expensive than using kerosene. But with a tax on fossil jet fuel and a price on carbon, hydrogen planes could become 2% cheaper to operate than their kerosene counterparts. '

Is not some kind of eco-mad tilting of the playing table, but going a small way to levelling it up.


It is all down to how much taxation you apply to make HC fuelled planes more expensive.
You can replace land transport easily enough with Eleco or H2 (if you must). You can replace sea transport with H2 or methanol or something, but you won't replace aircraft as they are constrained in both weight and volume, and have to be very very safe.
But by all means apply the same carbon tax to aircraft as other fields.
The problem is that the plebs are all flying now and this is causing a lot of flights.
This will become a much larger problem as all of India (and the rest of the successfully developing world) starts to visit their grannies.


Hi Jim

Airbus and others seem to think that they can make hydrogen work, although many with expert knowledge are sceptical.

Sould it not be possible, that would tilt the balance even further towards the desirability of using land based transport where that can work,

Sure, transatlantic and transpacific can only be done by air realistically, but for short haul the choice of air is just an option, so it is realistic to demand high decarbonised standards, or that folk should catch a train etc instead, and the vast majority of flights are in that category.

Raising the cost of air transport to reflect its carbon footprint is a first step to that.

Is this really substantial or just a load of bunk? If it is real then I imagine that H2 can be forgotten for aviation purposes.


Have you watched the video?

There are 'just a couple' of challenges.

Scaling the plasma engine by a factor of a thousand or so.

That is supposed to reduce carbon emissions by 60%, instead of eliminating them, as hydrogen potentially can.

That is if the very high temperatures don't result in a fireball.

This is clickbait, for other than spacecraft, not any kind of sensible or possible proposal. at least for a hundred years or so.


I had a look at several of them. I also skimmed over NASA's ionic thrusters used for maneuvering satellites. They have a lot in common.
I can also recall how Elon Musk was scoffed at and ridiculed by all the 'experts' worldwide when he introduced his first BEV. Apparently he's having the last laugh.

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