Bjorn’s Corner: Sustainable Air Transport. Part 1. A deeper look.

By Bjorn Fehrm

January 7, 2021, ©. Leeham News: We finished a 34 article series before Christmas about the enormous work involved to get a new aircraft certified for passenger transport.

It was a background article series to the one we start now, a deeper series on what’s involved in designing air transport vehicles that are less polluting for our environment. We have seen a landslide of such projects in the last years, and from an experienced aircraft designer’s desk, most of these are doomed for failure.

Figure 1. The Embraer Energia concept aircraft. A credible Sustainable Air Transport research program. Source: Embraer.

The deeper dive into Sustainable Air Transport

I’ve produced over 100 articles on the subject since 2017, dealing with topics like:

  • We do have a problem, and if so, who are the polluters? How shall we solve it for air transport?
  • In the air transport solution space, we looked at battery-based airliners in 2017 and 2019 and could see they just didn’t work. Their range will be too short. Can this change, and if so, when?
  • Hybrids did work but brought no benefits when we looked at it in 2020. We get higher costs and weight and burn as much fuel as before. Has this changed? Many projects claim significant gains in fuel consumption and, therefore, greenhouse gas emissions, even with retrofit kits for old airliners. Is this achievable?
  • Is hydrogen a solution? Its liquid variant requires a lot of energy to produce in a cryogenic form at -253°C; then, we need to get it to normal temperatures again to use it. Is the normal temperature gaseous form a better compromise?
  • When we have hydrogen on board, is it better to run it through a fuel cell to produce electricity and run propellers/fans with electric motors, or shall we burn it in a gas turbine combustion chamber? What’s the most efficient and has the lowest emissions?
  • Or shall we focus on Sustainable Aviation Fuels and continue developing technologies for lower fuel burn? Is this the most efficient use of our investments?

We will go through all these themes, this time in greater depth than before.

The generation of hard data

Over the last year, we have further developed the Leeham Aircraft Performance Model, which we use in our consultancy work, into a more capable tool. In addition to airliners, it now analyses smaller aircraft and VTOLs.

It analyses weights, aeronautical performance, cost of operation, and ownership costs as before. But now we’ve added energy consumption and emissions to the outputs.  We will add a paywall section to the Corners where we use the Performance Model to generate hard data for these parameters for different vehicle types.

We can then say how much energy a 50 seat regional turboprop uses to start up and taxi to the runway, for its take-off, its climb to cruise, and then for the completion of the trip until the doors open at the destination gate. And we also see how much reserve energy must remain when we shut down after the flight.

There are so many parts of this journey that are forgotten in all the projects flying around and it’s time for some hard facts in the craze around what can work as Sustainable Aviation.

What is the energy used to get people to an airport with eVTOLS? Is the proposed retrofitting of 30-year turboprops a good idea? What are the real gains in CO2, if any when going hybrid? Is the fitting of hydrogen fuel cells in these aircraft at all possible? What does it mean in terms of their performance and what is the certification effort?

In short, what makes sense in the present flood of projects and what doesn’t.

See you next Friday for the start of this exciting journey.

72 Comments on “Bjorn’s Corner: Sustainable Air Transport. Part 1. A deeper look.

  1. Happy New Year Bjorn!
    What a teaser! I really look forward following you (and LNA team) in this “exciting journey”.
    Thanks for coming back on this passionate subject and digging deep into it!

  2. Alot depends on required range and regulations if you don’t need certified pilot on board but their functions are transferred to the computers at ATC and in the aircraft avionics so the route is preprogrammed and you just press one button when everybody are buckled’ up then ATC computers take over. Lots of conditions that aircrafts are designed to handle must the UAM’s also solve like flight into icing conditions; ring state vortex; wind shear; sensors giving up etc.. I assume the first regulations for UAM’s are coming in the years ahead.
    Hydrogen might be mixed into the natural gas networks and be separated at airports and made into government provided expensive LH2.

  3. Although previous article series by Bjorn have shown that battery-powered propulsion is not viable for mainline commercial aviation, there continue to be various headlines relating to smaller craft, such as eVTOLs.
    Against that background, and also in light of the proliferation of ground-based battery-driven vehicles, a nasty problem is what to do with batteries that have reached their EOL. Just this week, the BBC published an excellent article relating to this thorny issue.

    “Lithium batteries’ big unanswered question”
    “As the world looks to electrify vehicles and store renewable power, one giant challenge looms: what will happen to all the old lithium batteries?”

    https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20220105-lithium-batteries-big-unanswered-question

    • There are sveral Li-ion battery recycling facilities nowdays. Both Finalnd and Sweden has them.

      • How much do they process per year? With what recovery %? Are they fully automated?

          • The company uses the traditional hydrometallurgy method, which the BBC article indicates as being “old school”.

            There’s no indication of capacity, but the factory is probably geared to handle (a portion of) the relatively small volumes of batteries coming from phones, laptops and power tools. In a few years, we’ll start to see mountains of batteries coming from EVs, thus producing hundreds/thousands of times more waste. Factories like the one you cite are not geared to deal with that problem.

          • If you go over the Fortum website they talk up front about Li traction batteries ( they also mention “second life” use in stationary E-storage.).
            Don’t expect them to have capacity ready today for demand coming up in a couple of years.

          • @ Uwe
            – I see same vague references to EV batteries, but nothing very convincing: sounds like a concept solution rather than something practical.
            – Second life in E-storage: fine for short-term kick-in during a limited-duration power failure on a small scale, but very little practical application besides that. For example: to power a factory or housing block for hours on a windstill night, E-storage is not going to cut it.
            – Timing: it won’t be long now before the first EVs start to reach EOL battery life en masse — thus generating thousands of tons of batteries (ca. half a ton per car). If the capacity isn’t available to recycle them, they have to be stored — which costs money/space, has an associated fire hazard, and can cause battery degradation (environmental moisture).

  4. Confessing I didn’t read all Bjorn articles, but a lot of them. Maybe at some point he can update, structurize & publish them in a modern way. No doubt he considered 😉 No doubt there’s an aeronautical university close by willing to help with resources.

    In recent years we saw Sustainable Air Transport developments often close to hypes & cheap money being spend on it, even from industry (Green PR). Often I see Technology Drive; solutions looking for requirements.

    Moving people to airports quickly from city center$ in electrical superdrones. (they can’t fly far). Imagine dozens of noisy air vehicles, close to densely populated areas. Safety conditions, ear protection, emergency landing options. Instead of taking a (far lower energy) taxi/underground. Are we creating solutions or a new problems?

    IMO must avoid innovations for the sake (graphics) of it, but weed out non- sense from feasibility / public interests standpoint.

    • Yeah, that’s a book I’d buy! And if he could respond to some of the more pertinent and germane comments too that would be great. Like the idea Bjorn? You’ve already done 90% of the work.

  5. The ARPA-E REEACH program’s objective is to design a 737-sized SOFC-powered airplane. I understand most of the contract awardees are focused on designing the light weight SOFC so why not put your focus on designing the airplane portion for them? Alternatively maybe you’d be interested in critiquing our SOFC airplane design?

    • What’s the realistically projected range / flying time of this design, and at what payload?
      It’s relatively easy to conceive a “flying physics experiment” — but a totally different matter to produce a real-world product that meets the industry’s requirements.
      A 1-hour flying time won’t cut it: 45 minutes of that is needed as a reserve.
      A 2-hour flying time might fill a small niche — assuming the plane isn’t half full of fuel cells, thus taking up revenue-generating space.
      Ryanair flies MANY 3-5 hour routes — take that as an example.

    • SOFC are interesting. Rather than relying on a platinum catalyst they rely on high temperatures. Rather than relying on a polymer membrane permeable to hydrogen ion they rely on an ceramic like oxide permeable at high temperatures.

      The advantages are that the solid oxide is not poisoned by CO and can run on hydrocarbons. The high temperature means that the fuel cell can be turbo charged, essentially by a standard turbosupercharger, both to pressurise the fuel cell and to recover waste heat. That potentially takes efficiency from 60% to 85%. The problems are power density and life. Last time I checked a few years ago the cell life for a NASA program was at least 5000 hours. Power density is also a bit low still.

  6. The sky is bluer and the sky starrier thanks to covid-19. This was achieved by less travel

    • Less travel, less industry, less economic improvement (and yes, major if not fatal environmental cost).

      Models are not perfect, they can be wrong, too slow, too fast (they have yet to predict weather accurately)

      Do they best I can and along for the ride.

      One small example: My wife and I generate minimum trash. Once every three weeks do we need to have it picked up. So we don’t put the an out, the truck does not have to stop at our place.

      As much as we can goes to recycle. We live a moderate life (pure luxury by others standards and I understand that).

    • It’s a reduction in solar activity brought about bt the troughs of two magnetic solar waves. Solar activity and La Niña doesn’t fit the narrative though.

  7. Hydrogen: While others were ruled out Hydrogen as not.

    What should be addressed specifically and separable, is a tank type hydrogen aircraft and a fuel cell hydrogen aircraft. Use as realistic assumption as possible (understanding it won’t be perfect, but close works).

    Compare the weight and range to current A320/737.

    The use a metric of cost per PAX and an estimate of the cost of the ticket.

  8. Previous articles didn’t touch on the very big difference in price of electricity depending on time, location and needed watts (speed of charging). F.ex. the energy cost of running a hypothetical battery electric short range passenger plane in a feeder cycle looks like it could have much higher energy cost compared to f.ex. a fleet of battery electric trainers that go back to base. It’s a variable that I think needs to be put into the analysis tool, if you are to run scenarios for a potential future with much lighter batteries. It should apply to multi-rotors too.

    • What would make a difference is to run calcs on how light a battery you would need to be viable.

      To be competitive it has to weight less than a fuel tank.

      And we have no index of fossil fuel costs (extraction , refine and pollution to the environment) vs battery extraction costs, mfg pollution and disposal and its climate impact.

      • -Elon Must says that batteries become compelling for aviation at 400WHr/Kg.
        -Tesla’s are at 220WHr/kg
        -Certified Aviation Batteries are at about 140Whr/kg
        -Lab quality automotive cells are available at 400Whr/Kg
        -LiliumJet is planning on 300-320 Whr/kg

    • When these factors are considered hydrogen starts looking competitive.

      • Hydrogen? It may be interesting until someone discloses that hydrogen atoms can go through metal crystalline structure and make tanks fragile.

          • Materials are not the issue. They have been overcome for Hydrogen as well as many other applications.

            If you look at the proposal its a big tank inserted in the back of an aircraft.

            You can’t use the existing fuel tank, so that is space wasted.

            Range in turn is half or worse than current. So, you have to stop and fuel.

            What is missing is an estimate of straight up comparison in ticket cost for the Hydrogen Bird vs a 737/A320/A220.

            At that point you can see the impact.

            Equally, anywhere other than a mandated area (say the EU) others don’t have to adapt it.

            What would that do to Airbus product line? (single aisle, no one can conceive a wide body working).

            Does Airbus stop A320/A220, keep building A320/220 in the US/North America?

            Those are questions that have to be answered first not latter.

            The reasons you put the horse in front of the cart is it works best. Yes you can put the horse behind the cart, but the other outfit laughs all the way to the bank.

          • @ TW
            “Materials are not the issue”

            Well, @dude’s comment was 100% materials-related, and potentially related to effects such as those described in the link below. It seems that this problem can be circumvented by using synthetic linings, but it’s still an interesting and potentially relevant phenomenon for aviation applications.

            https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11661-007-9391-3

            Of course, none of this interests you — you instead decided to hijack the comment thread and use it as a catalyst to indulge in a convoluted anti-hydrogen / anti-Airbus rant.
            Nothing new.

          • @ TW
            Presumably you mean Bjorn’s previous article series…not his “post”
            –> Your usual lack of expression skills.

            Bjorn didn’t conclude in that series that hydrogen was unviable…he merely discussed the challenges involved.
            –> Your usual lack of reading skills

            We all know that you’re vehemently anti-hydrogen…possibly because of overt conservatism. However, that doesn’t have any weight in the discussions here.
            –> Your usual lack of debating skills.

        • The space industry has been using hydrogen as a fuel for 60 years now, hydrogen embrittlement of materials is well understood. There are other problems with hydrogen that are more central to designers (safety is not one of them, once again well understood due to the space industry knowledge).

          • Agreed, though this specific application has not been used. So there is a learning curve there. There is a major cost over standard fuel handling systems as well. Exotic materials do not come cheap. No question Aircraft Rated materials are also higher cost.

            And the other questions remain.

            Do you mandate it?

            Do you tax fossil fuel so the cost is higher?

            And how do you deal with more than the EU region in doing so?

          • Sure.
            Those rockets travel once for several minutes.

          • @ dude
            There have been hydrogen-powered buses and trains running in various EU countries for 3 years now — no issues reported with tank degradation.

            “Our Type 4 composite pressure vessels, which our engineers began manufacturing 20 years ago, are extremely lightweight and provide outstanding properties like robustness and durability. When used for hydrogen storage i.e. H2 fuel-cell trucks or buses, these carbon fibre-reinforced vessels can result in a weight reduction in the gas containment system. The transport capacity can be significantly increased and the fuel efficiency of the vehicle can be optimized.

            We use both filament winding as well as braiding and resin moulding technology for less conventionally-shaped H2 tanks. They are extremely durable – potentially delivering up to 30 years of use without needing to be replaced.”

            https://www.nproxx.com/hydrogen-powered-heavy-duty-vehicles/hydrogen-powered-buses/#:~:text=When%20used%20for%20hydrogen%20storage%20i.e.%20H%202,fuel%20efficiency%20of%20the%20vehicle%20can%20be%20optimized.

          • Yes, but not only space. I’m about to enter my 5th year driving an FCEV. I can go away for a month or more and there’s absolutely no reduction of H2 in the tank. It’s exactly the same level of H2 as when I left the car. Other FCEV drivers are reporting similar findings. My gasoline car on the other hand will show a tiny loss of gasoline if I leave it for extended periods of time. And Bryce: In California we’ve had H2 busses running for over 10 years, meaning the actual busses are 10+ years old and still running with more than 30,000hrs on their Fuel Cells with no major overhaul.

          • During the second world war the Germans used the Bergius Hydrogenation process to convert a coal-toluene slurry into synthetic crude by pressurisation with hydrogen at 700 bar (10,000psi) that if distilled produced an Octane Rating of about 74 RON before upgrading with TEL and synthetic isooctane. The alloy that was developed to resit hydrogen embrittlement was called bondur. (the other process, fischer-tropsch also used hydrogen but at lower pressure it was used for diesel, lubricants and jet fuel and is today the centre of many elctrofuel catalysts)

            So the tech goes back to then and even before because the haber-bosch process for the production of ammonia goes to before WW1/1914 and used high pressures.

            Incidentally bondur was perfect for resisting uranium hexafluoride to be used for the 300 uranium centrifuges ordered from the BAHMAG company towards the end of 1944.

            Hydrogen leakage through materials is inevitable but presumably it can be death with by a double wall jacket and low pressure inside.

          • The solution in context of haber bosch amonia synthesis is rather interesting.
            External heating was replaced by internal heating via oxygen flame in a Hydrogen environment.
            Hydrogen embrittlement was solved via soft iron cladding and thus low temp loaded steel pressure vessel.

            tanks: IMU all the roadable Hydrogen EE vehicles use compressed gas tanks (350+++bar)
            In space LH2 is easier, lighter : vacuum is a rather prefect thermal insulator without having to resort to double walled designs..

    • Sorry if I set off a silly debate about H2. Didn’t mean to do that. Battery planes might have lost some of their hype, but there’s still a significant amount of money being poured into multi-rotor projects. These projects don’t have an alternative to electric propulsion, so that electricity has to come from somewhere, be it a battery or a fuel cell or a turbine. If run on batteries these multi-rotors will have to charge every single time they land. Which might be an opportune moment and location. Or it might not. Understanding those aspects could be important for potential investors in multi-rotor projects.

        • H2 May have its place.

          But not in aircraft

          Hybrids have done well, but not in aircraft. Dang my right wing brother bought one!

          Batteries have done well, but not in aircraft.

          See a theme here? No of course not.

          • “H2 May have its place.
            But not in aircraft”

            That discussion is best left to engineers — the considerations involved tend to be beyond the grasp of mechanics, etc.

          • Bryce:

            I was an engineer.

            Many if not all engineer decisions were also laden with political ramification or requirements.

            In this case, clearly is possible to do a Hydrogen powered aircraft

            No one has submitted a patch on how to make that happen politically.

            So yes the EU could try to mandate it, if the EU cold overcome the single country trump card.

            And allowing the EU did, how does that apply to the rest of the world?

            Without a path that makes it politically possible technically it goes no where.

          • No, TW…you were a mechanic.
            Engineers have engineering degrees…which you don’t have.

      • The Uber Elevate White paper contains many insights. One of which was that most users would be ‘super commuters’ that fly several times a week for 100 miles/160km. (Suggesting many first generation eVTOL will be too short ranged). The other insight was there would be no time for charging and so interchangeable battery packs would be needed. That also allows optimal charging. Volocopter will be doing that.

        Interesting is the 250km/150 mile range LiliumJet eVTOL. Because LilumJet uses EDF (Electric Ducted Fans) it is inefficient at hovering but very efficient at cruise. In order to hover (plans to hover no more than 20 seconds per landing or take-off) the batteries will need to discharge at 3 to 5 minute rate to provide sufficient power. That is an enormous amount of energy being dumped in a short time. They will be using high temperature (150C) lithium cells from ‘custom cells’ and they will need to be certified at 300 Watt Hours per Kg or more.

        What is interesting is that what can be discharged in 3-5 minutes can also be recharged in 3-5 minutes.

        Hence eVTOL landing pads like the “Lilipads” lilium jet uses will need some powerful high voltage supplies. It’s no surprise that Lilium has teamed with ABB. (A few companies like ABB, Siemens, Schneider, GE, Westinghouse could do it)

        Incidentally discharging at these rates has been normal in drones and electric model aircraft for 10 years

        • Acceptable transit times have a fixed upper limit.
          About .7 to 1 hour.
          This apparently is independent of speed.
          Increase transfer speeds and commuting distances will increase.
          ( except you make it exceptionally expensive.)

  9. The biggest “emperor has no clothes” factor is the cost of renewables.
    The second factor is the shear foolishness of attacking difficult and expensive emissions problems, such as aviation, which will make little difference when solved versus spending less money on bigger problems that reduce emissions much more.

    Here is a quick survey of the CO2 emissions problem.
    1 28% of emissions are from electricity generation. It should be the easiest to solve but are very far from it.
    2 27% of emissions are from road transport. The solution seems to be BEV and FCEV but even if all autos and trucks were BEV and FCEV right now there is no renewable energy to power them. BEV work well because even running on fossil fuel they save energy.
    3 About 5% and 4% come from cement and iron and steel.
    4 Then we have a huge but important contribution from agriculture (soil tillage need for fertilisers) etc.

    In theory the problem of producing carbon neutral SAF was solved probably 30-40 years ago by the US NRL and German ZSW experiments with electro fuels. Had plenty of baseload nuclear electricity been available at current nuclear PWR costs in France and USA (only 2-4 cents/kwhr) jet fuel would be available.

    Yet we are faced with high renewable costs which have the problem of their high capital costs and relatively short life spans coupled with large costs needed to integrate them (static battery backed condensers, battery backup, thermal backup or synchronous confessors and huge transmission costs)

    We are loosing the logos, reasoned argument and the opportunity to place an argument and sensible action is being replaced by top down protest, ‘flight shaming’, screaming and other kids of rhetoric and narrative management based around fear and panic. I don’t see Greta Thunberg as precious brave girl who started a movement. She is a sock puppet and her public image is well managed.

    The cost to us of tolerating irrationality is wasteful pointless and inefficient action.

    • “BEV work well because even running on fossil fuel they save energy.”

      beyond other things because you have a better lever on pollutants and efficiency even with nonEE generation.

      IMU China is going in the right direction.
      By forcing their citizens to BEV investments it is much easier to improve on environmental aspects.
      change over / increase EE solutions going forward without trashing citizen investments. unguided market forces would never have been able to achieve this.
      Just like for photovoltaics the kick off incentive was dearly needed.

      • -The BEV is efficient from the point of view of capturing and utilising the maximum possible amount of electrical energy. Probably 85% of the electrical energy generated can be recovered as mechanical after transmissions, charge, discharge and conversion to mechanical.
        -The caveat is that the BEV must be charged slowly directly from the renewable when the renewable is most available which is during the day as both solar and wind (from thermal air currents) is most available. Intermediate charging is wasteful.
        -fast chargers, are wasteful and to be avoided except as top ups between cities. A infrastructure of slow network chargers at public car parks, homes, work parks is needed.

        -FCEV are in theory half as efficient ass BEV (80% to produce 700 bar hydrogen) 60% for the Fuel cell and 95% for the invertor/motor.
        -However FCEV do not require intermediate storage. A hydrogen pipeline can store months of hydrogen liberating the system from the requirement for intermediate storage and off-peak charging. FCEV can be refilled in minutes and an FCEV needs less platinum than a catalytic converter.

        -Hydrogen will be need for direct heating, iron smelting, ammonia production, cement calcination and FCEV long haul trucks, buses and tractors and earth moving machinery. Waste heat from engines or fuel cells will be used in cogeneration for heating buildings. Hence hydrogen solves the energy storage problem.

        -hydrogen can also be produced photochemically and thermochemically and is to a degree transportable by ship.

        -Hydrogen is probably not needed for aviation but useful for other stuff.

        -I note that RCCI piston engines are achieving 58% efficiency (more than a fuel cell after passing through an invertor and electric motor).
        -With the production of electro fuel gasoline at nearly 60-65% efficiency possible the piston engine may be here to stay.

        Synthetic electro fuel hydrocarbons are highly transportable.

        BEV and FCEV will work well together.

        • William:

          Thornberg is like Rachael Carson. Someone needs to get focus on the issue. Regardless of it just being her or a backing, it is clearly an issue. I have no problem with her or the issue being made clear.

          What the solution is I do not know. Its both unbelievably complex technical and more so politically (the US is severely fractured on it) . I don’t see China or Russia or India leading a patch forward either. There may well not be an answer.

          The answer also has to weigh in the real cost from extraction (of which fossible fuel has a very small footprint aside from Canada Tar Sands) and mining materials which has a huge impact.

          Looking at tech solutions is needed, but ignoring the rest is looking at a tree and declaring it is a forest.

          • Fear mongering is never to be accepted or tolerated. That is all she does and she is is used for. Fear mongering (scolding & mindless mob shaming) is always wrong, always a form of lying, always bypasses reason and is always wrong and evil. It doesn’t matter if its used to create angst about ‘climate change’, start a war in the ME or Russia or Vietnam or tell lies about who gets HIV. It’s always wrong and always divisive. It always undermines the truth. It separates us from our reason. Maybe spin doctoring has become so much a part of the society in the US and many part so of the west most people just accept it and participate just like they take part in corruption in some parts of the world or Human rights abuses.

    • “BEV work well because even running on fossil fuel they save energy.”

      Sort of.
      When you take into account the environmental footprint involved in producing the required batteries, and then executing EOL solutions when the batteries are depleted, a very big dent is made in nominal BEV energy savings.

      Another problem that few are talking about: power grids have to be upgraded to cope with all the extra electricity that’s being generated/used at previously unforeseen locations. This also has an associated (huge) environmental footprint: all that extra material needs to be mined, processed and transported, and then put in place using heavy machinery. This footprint needs to be amortized.

      https://engmag.in/upgrading-grid-to-accommodate-renewable-energy/

      • I tried to cover some of the issues you raise in my post. Not only do we need renewable electricity to provide domestic/industrial/commercial power it will be needed to provide the power used in road transport, some rail transport, various industrial processes.

        I would imagine a trebling of electrical production is required but all in renewables or nuclear!

        And I agree that renewables need to be more than doubled or trebled in price because of the enormous costs of transmissions lines, storage and network stabilisation.

        The problem with batteries is not that they can’t be recycled but that it costs more to recycle than to mine. Hence we may see a bounty applied to batteries. Its essentially what Toyota has been doing with the prius since 1987.

        Overall the analysis shows that they are overall a net energy benefit when used in a car even in the US where only 30% of electricity is renewable or nuclear.

        I work in the mining industry at present.

        The industry is extremely high tech and we can find and extract lithium, dysprosium and other rare earths with very high efficiency.

        The industry is based around explosives to break up the earth, diesel to power trucks and earth moving machinery to move thousands of tons of earth per day, crushing and grinding plant to turn the ore into a fine powder that is converted to a slurry, concentrating the ore with reagents through flocculation and flotation.

        Several lithium mines I have commissioned are in care and maintenance because the demand for lithium has not materialised yet but that is set to change.

        It uses a great deal of diesel and electricity but its at present starting to use solar and wind during the day. Even diesel electric trucks use catenaries to haul.

        • I’ve also worked in mining — specifically in developing micro-tomography techniques for (automated) characterization of minerals in ore samples. The work was almost exclusively oriented toward finding lithium / rare earths in difficult-to-reach seams, once the low-hanging sources (e.g. salt pans) have been depleted. Not an easy task.
          You’ll note that the price of lithium has doubled this year.

          I’m not disageeing with you: I think we both concur that batteries have a huge “background” environmental price tag that is seldom discussed in mainstream media. That needs to change.

          • There are several Gigawatt hour battery factories opening this year (30GWHr and 35GWhr) in the US which is enough for about 1 million cars. I imagine several in other parts of the world as well. We will see by 2025 what the price of batteries is. I imagine a 10 year life in an automobile followed by at least another in electrical energy storage followed by recycling that is supported by a bounty.

            I do not know what the major cost in battery’s is. Its probably no raw materials yet but capital and investment. As mass production sets in materials become the biggest component.

    • @Rashid I will be shocked if there is not a private out of court settlement.

      If I were Airbus, I would be focused on eliminating any precedent.

      If Qatar is successful in court, then what will stop the other A350 carriers if they experience similar issues.

      • Agreed it will be settled.

        Airbus has yet to acualy fix the problem, patching it yes. But like the 787, the issue will be overcome and it will go on.

      • The Qatar suit is based around Airbus supposedly not providing a deviation document specifying how much area of paint and mesh related deterioration is allowable that is backed by testing. Certainly Airbus will not come out not paying something,

  10. Interesting article from last month…though the viability of the design is, of course, far from certain.

    “The UK government has announced details of a winner of its “FlyZero” funding initiative to develop decarbonised aviation technologies. The winning project aims to develop a midsize zero-emissions aircraft capable of completing non-stop transatlantic flights.”

    Of note: in addition to hydrogen tanks at the rear of the fuselage (discussed in Bjorn’s earlier hydrogen series), this design uses extra “pannier” tanks at the sides of the front fuselage (integrated behind aerodynamic fairings) — thus introducing a deviation from traditional fuselage cross-sections. The photo shows a plane with noticeable “belly fat rolls” ahead of the wings 😉

    “The liquid hydrogen fuel is stored in cryogenic fuel tanks at around -250°C in the aft fuselage and two small tanks along the forward fuselage. These smaller tanks also help keep the aircraft balanced as the fuel burns off, eliminating the need for additional aerodynamic structures.”

    https://eandt.theiet.org/content/articles/2021/12/hydrogen-aircraft-project-sets-sights-on-transatlantic-flight/

    • hard to find more detail, but its sourced from a reputable institute ATI-Cranfield.
      The money mentioned is hardly enough to provide anything more than concepts

  11. Without wishing to disparage or discourage your well intentioned and no doubt, executed research into this topic I believe it is misplaced. The quest for airliners that do not pollute is not based on rational need, rather on political imperative. A more fruitful endeavour would be to explore the root of this exigent and how it has manifested into a public obligation.

    Politics of course, is not your beat but much time and expense can be saved by reverting to first principals. Stored solar energy in the form of hydrocarbons is of course, the optimum fuel for airliners. It is cheap, it is plentiful, it works. So why ban or restrict it? That is the question you ought to be exploring here.

    I assume you will declare hydrogen to be the only viable alternative to oil, derived from nuclear heat. It is clean, non polluting, price predictable and inexhaustible. It is also defined by the taxonomy of the European Union as “non-green”. Nuclear power plants across the EU are being closed by political imperative. The result? Unaffordable energy prices. Deaths from hypothermia. Political unrest. Are these phenomena an unfortunate consequence of political dogma or the indeed, the intention? Whichever, you cannot deny they exist. So the future of the airline industry can be foreseen by what is already happening in other spheres of energy usage. And it has nothing, nothing whatsoever to do with new airframe morphology, SOFC, metal hydrides and small modular reactors however interesting these topics may be.

    Until you understand and acknowledge what is really going on here and why, such endeavours as this are simply self indulgent. At the very least, rename your thesis “Dogmatic Air Transport” and not “Sustainable Air Transport”.

    • Perhaps Mr. Bannon has a website/blog where this type of political intrigue can be discussed?
      Here, aviation buffs / engineers are discussing implementation of new technology — regardless of what imperatives may be driving it.

      Humanity has undergone many energy transitions throughout history, for a variety of reasons: wood to coal, coal to oil…and now oil to a whole spectrum of alternatives. Nothing new.

      p.s. I live in the EU. Perhaps you can supply some links to the alleged “Deaths from hypothermia. Political unrest.” to which you allude?
      Also, not sure how you draw the conclusion that “Nuclear power plants across the EU are being closed”; in fact, 7 EU countries are currently building EXTRA nuclear power plants (France, Finland, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Czech Republic).

      • Bryce:

        You are not a self described Aviation buff. Those are informed even if they disagree on some factual details.

        And in fact what Fastship wrote is accurate, as much as I love Bjorns technical expertise he is wrong to think that Hydrogen works (because he also has to explain how it gets implemented and or enforced).

        Its no different than Scott on China or Russia. Its not technical its one system vs another and how those two countries act out that drives the tech aspects not the other way around. Tech does not exist in a humanity vacuum.

        I have made the same point that all you Hydrogen advocates ignore, show me the implementation and how it happens, don’t just talk tech. Its an economic issue as well as political and you don’t wave a magic wand and make those go away.

        Boeing is NOT going Hydrogen and if you think the US has the political will to mandate it you are badly mistaken.

        China and Russian have invested in the 919, MC-21 and the 929, those are not going away either no matter how poorly they sell, they are national strategy aircraft for one and the 929 for both.

        China and Russia are doing nothing on hydrogen aircraft (nor is the US).

        And yes, Germany shutting down its power plants with its huge part of the EU economy is having ripple affects. And I have also seen the reports of people in the cold and dark in the EU.

        Denial is a River in Egypt as we say over here.

        • “And I have also seen the reports of people in the cold and dark in the EU.”

          And yet, you’re unable to provide a link to them. Perhaps the cold and dark are getting to you 🙄

          Once a troll, always a troll.

          • Bryce:

            LOL. I log tech items, I have not logged EU items unless they are tech aircraft or military.

            I don’t have logged how to make an Atomic bomb though the material is out there.

            But feel free to deny all you want. Anyone can google soaring energy prices in the EU, the charges Russia has had to add to their gas supplies.

            India has the same issue with coal, they cut back the stock piles when the downturn hit and did not ramp back up and there is wide spread shortages. Once they get fired back up they can resume the horrible pollution that coal brings (both air and fly ash) .

            Economically coal is a dead end in the US and is dying out in favor of Natural Gas.

            That reduces pollution hugely while looking at other options.

            But the electricity for your electric cars has to come from someplace and right now? That is mostly fossil fuel. Shrug.

            Is that fuel dirtier than a modern clean ICE? I have not seen anyone compare them.

          • “LOL. I log tech items, I have not logged EU items unless they are tech aircraft or military.”

            Translation: this stuff that you claim to have “read” on cold/hunger was a complete figment of your imagination.
            Like so much of the rubbish that you claim.

          • Poor pipe fitting standards in the US has meant that natural gas leakage is so large it has completely nullified the moderate reduction of moving from coal to Natural Gas. Efforts are now being put into improving things but it shows the dangers of rushing into a technology. Gas leakage in Australia was probably 1/5th to 1/10th as much due to higher fitting standards.

            Hydrogen is inevitable in part because blue hydrogen can be made from natural gas with geological sequestration of the CO2 at source of production. It’s why FCEV have a future. It’s also a sign that renewables can’t be made to work in the foreseeable future.

          • US numbers in feeding pipelines seems to hug 1.4% dominated by distinct “mega defects”.
            Nothing on distribution networks.

            Things like NS1, 2 have zero lossses.
            Going through Poland or the Ukraine is rather lossy.

    • Most of the hydrogen will probably be so called blue hydrogen. That is hydrogen made out of natural gas in which the CO2 is geologically sequestered. Green hydrogen from electrolysis will be only a component.

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