easyJet and Rolls-Royce have signed a new partnership, H2ZERO, that will pioneer the development of hydrogen combustion engine technology capable of powering a range of aircraft, including those in the narrow-body market segment.
Both companies have committed to working together on a series of engine tests on the ground, starting later this year and have a shared ambition to take the technology into the air. The objective of the partnership is to demonstrate that hydrogen has the potential to power a range of aircraft from the mid-2030s onwards.
While Rolls-Royce will bring its expertise in engine development and combustion systems, easyJet will contribute its operational knowledge and experience to H2ZERO and will also directly invest in the test programme.
Through H2ZERO, the companies will support an early concept ground test of a Rolls-Royce AE 2100 engine in the UK later this year. This will be followed by a full-scale ground test of a Rolls-Royce Pearl 15 jet engine - a range of location options are being assessed for this including the Rolls-Royce test facility in Mississippi, USA. The programme will build on initial hydrogen combustion and fuel system rig tests that Rolls-Royce is undertaking with both Cranfield and Loughborough universities.
H2ZERO is inspired by the global, UN-backed Race to Zero campaign that both companies have signed up to, committing to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
The agreement follows a research project that both companies began in 2021, developing market analysis, driving specifications, investigating infrastructure and regulatory requirements to support the use of hydrogen in aviation.
Grazia Vittadini, Chief Technology and Strategy Officer, Rolls-Royce, said: “H2ZERO is a big step forward for Rolls-Royce and we are excited to be working with a partner that shares a desire to innovate and find new answers to aviation’s biggest challenges. We at Rolls-Royce want to be ready to pioneer sustainability with whatever the future requires, be it hydrogen, electric power, sustainable aviation fuel, or gas turbine efficiency. This agreement further inspires us to move forward.”
The H2ZERO partnership has also been created in response to detailed studies and market research – including the UK Aerospace Technology Institute’s Fly Zero team and Project NAPKIN (New Aviation Propulsion Knowledge and Innovation Network) - which both concluded there is market potential for hydrogen-powered aircraft.