Airbus SE said a lack of so-called green hydrogen and associated infrastructure could push back service entry for a carbon-free aircraft that the manufacturer is readying for the middle of next decade. 

The European planemaker, which plans to introduce a hydrogen model around 2035, is working with airports, energy companies and infrastructure providers to develop the ecosystem needed to support such an aircraft, Chief Executive Officer Guillaume Faury said Wednesday.

With a launch decision on a hydrogen jet required as soon as 2027 or 2028 in order to meet the planned time-line, a lack of certainty about provision of the fuel is a significant issue, Faury said in a briefing on decarbonization efforts.

“The availability, or lack of availability, of green hydrogen at the right quantity, at the right place, at the right price in the second half of the decade is a concern for me,” he said. It “could be a reason for delaying the launch of the program, even if the technologies of the planes itself are mature.”

The aviation industry is under increasing pressure to reduce fossil fuel use. Toulouse, France-based Airbus, the world’s biggest planemaker, is betting that hydrogen-powered planes could be a solution for zero-emissions flying.

Faury also said that there’s no technological barrier to switching to planes 100% powered by sustainable aviation fuel -- seen as a stopgap before the industry is able to offer non-carbon-based propulsion -- but that supply is once again a limiting factor.

Ariane Pact

Current targets are for SAF to make up 10% of fuel needs by 2030, he said.

As part of Airbus’s hydrogen push, the company said Wednesday that it’s teaming up with ArianeGroup to build a liquid-hydrogen facility at Blagnac airport in Toulouse, tapping the rocket maker’s expertise in using the fuel to power its launchers.

The station will be operational in 2025, allowing it to refuel an A380 demonstrator aircraft as part of Airbus’s ZEROe program. The superjumbo is due to perform flight tests of a hydrogen combustion engine mounted on its fuselage from mid-decade.

Airbus is meanwhile studying three ZEROe concept planes as it works toward the 2035 service entry, comprising a relatively conventional jet and a turboprop, plus a more radical blended wing body design.