A Rolls-Royce hydrogen engine on display.
Photo Credit: Rolls-Royce

Rolls-Royce and EasyJet set new hydrogen engine first

LONDON – Rolls-Royce has, together with EasyJet, confirmed that they have set a new aviation milestone with the run of the world’s first hydrogen-powered aero engine.

Test run


The engine test was conducted on an early concept demonstrator using green hydrogen created by tidal and wind power. It marks a major step towards proving that hydrogen could in fact be a viable alternative for kerosine and a contester in the zero carbon aviation fuels alternatives.

This ground test is also a key proof point in the decarbonization strategies of both Rolls-Royce and EasyJet.

Both companies have set out and shown to the world that hydrogen fuel can safely and efficiently deliver power for civil aero engines and are already planning a second set of tests, with a longer-term ambition to carry out flight tests.

The ground test took place at an outdoor test facility at MoD Boscombe Down, UK, using a converted Rolls-Royce AE 2100-A regional aircraft engine.

Green hydrogen for the tests was supplied by EMEC (European Marine Energy Centre), generated using renewable energy at their hydrogen production and tidal test facility on Eday in the Orkney Islands, UK.

Secretary of State for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy, Grant Shapps, said: “The UK is leading the global shift to guilt-free flying, and today’s test by Rolls-Royce and easyJet is an exciting demonstration of how business innovation can transform the way we live our lives.

“This is a true British success story, with the hydrogen being used to power the jet engine today produced using tidal and wind energy from the Orkney Islands of Scotland – and is a prime example of how we can work together to make aviation cleaner while driving jobs across the country.”

Grazia Vittadini, Chief Technology Officer, Rolls-Royce, said: “The success of this hydrogen test is an exciting milestone. We only announced our partnership with easyJet in July and we are already off to an incredible start with this landmark achievement.”

“We are pushing the boundaries to discover the zero carbon possibilities of hydrogen, which could help reshape the future of flight.”

Johan Lundgren, CEO of EasyJet, said: “This is a real success for our partnership team. We are committed to continuing to support this ground-breaking research because hydrogen offers great possibilities for a range of aircraft, including EasyJet-sized aircraft.”

“That will be a huge step forward in meeting the challenge of net zero by 2050.”

Following analysis of this early concept ground test, the partnership plans a series of further rig tests leading up to a full-scale ground test of a Rolls-Royce Pearl 15 jet engine.

The partnership is inspired by the global, UN-backed Race to Zero campaign that both companies have signed up for, committing to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Infancy


Like every new groundbreaking technology, hydrogen-based aviation engines are in their infancy. Even though the technology has been made, there are many people and new kinds of technology that are yet to come after to make it more and more efficient.

It is the same as the currently existing turbofan/turbojet engines, that once every couple of years a new and more efficient engine comes into the market and blows the other options away.

One of the few “jumpstarts” of the engine is that much of the groundwork, like the turbojet/fan technology can be re-used and re-applied to the hydrogen-based engines while maintaining their own “uniqueness”.

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