Hydrogen Powered Aviation by Clean Sky

Power generation
Mobility applications

Emin Eliasson

    Published on Feb 08, 2021

This report assesses the potential of hydrogen propulsion to reduce aviation’s climate impact. To scale H2 -powered aircraft, several technological unlocks need to happen: enhancing the overall efficiency with lighter tanks (targeting 12 kWh/kg / gravimetric index of 35%) and fuel cell systems (targeting 2 kW/kg incl. cooling), liquid hydrogen (LH2) distribution within the aircraft, turbines capable of burning hydrogen with low-NOx emissions.


McKinsey & Company - Clean Sky 2 – FCH JU


Short-range aircraft powered by hybrid H2 propulsion Feasible segment and time to market within 15 years. An evolutionary tube and wing aircraft design was chosen to ensure faster commercialization. The fuselage is extended by approximately five meters to integrate the two LH2 tanks behind the passenger cabin. However, this design still has issues that must be addressed. A system needs to be created that will distribute the LH2 safely and reliably from the back of the fuselage to the two wing-mounted engines. Second, the fuel cell system has a power rating greater than 10 megawatts (MW), requiring even more efficient heat exchangers or other cooling concepts. Third, the use of a parallel hybrid system adds complexity to the development and certification of the propulsion system.


Cost projection of fuel prices in Europe (USD/MWh) The steep cost-down trajectory expected for each of the alternative fuels from different sources (landed costs at EU airports). No matter the source, alternative fuels will become increasingly competitive against kerosene today; for its part, LH2 will drop from four times the cost of kerosene today to roughly the same cost by 2050