The aviation sector is under intense scrutiny to reduce carbon emissions, with regulations requiring players to meet with national and international targets. Prior to Covid-19, aviation accounted for nearly 3.5% of global emissions, about 900 million tons a year, making it a key target for emission reduction.

Listed below are the key regulatory trends impacting the hydrogen aircraft theme, as identified by GlobalData.

Clean energy investment

Hydrogen is also produced using fossil fuels, but it would be carbon free if produced from renewable energy. Additionally, the only emission it produces is water, making it climate friendly. Consequently, clean energy investment is increasingly including provisions for infrastructure development, which will aid in the development of hydrogen powered aircraft.

Carbon regulation

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has set an ambitious target of reducing carbon emissions by 50% by 2050, whilst the European Union (EU) is aiming to reduce transport emissions by 90% by 2050. These ambitious targets will require more regulation and enforcement by governments, as well as private sector investments.

Currently, the EU operates a carbon trading system which allocates each airline certain level of emissions per year, which will aid the push to hydrogen propulsion for airlines.

National hydrogen strategies

A number of countries have developed targets for hydrogen. Whilst these are not specifically targeted at aviation, the scaling up of production will increase its viability for aircraft in the future.

The EU has set explicit targets of 40GW by 2030, and 10 million tons of renewable hydrogen by 2030. The US does not have a national approach but the Department of Energy has set targets and aims to provide research and development (R&D) funding focusing on a variety of areas, including reducing costs and developing reversible fuel cell systems. Australia is developing 30GW of green hydrogen projects, whilst the UK has set a goal of 5GW of low carbon hydrogen by 2030.

Hydrogen and energy efficiency

The push for clean aviation has thus far focused on energy efficiency, reducing CO2 emissions by advancing aircraft which require less fuels, and the use of biofuels. This energy efficiency will benefit hydrogen specifically, as the fuel tanks are significantly bigger than kerosene fuel tanks. Lower fuel consumption makes commercial aircraft more feasible. More advanced engines and lighter aircraft are likely to increase energy efficiency.

This is an edited extract from the Hydrogen Aircraft (Market Size, Advancements and Key Programs) – Thematic Research report produced by GlobalData Thematic Research.