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Rolls-Royce Skeptical on the Future of Hydrogen Planes

Rolls-Royce doesn’t think hydrogen could be a viable solution for emissions reductions in aviation at least in the next two decades, the chief executive of the UK propulsion systems maker said on Tuesday.  

“I don’t believe in the next 15, 20 years hydrogen will play a role,” Rolls-Royce’s CEO Tufan Erginbilgic said on the capital markets call with analysts, as carried by Bloomberg.

Rolls-Royce is part of a newly-announced alliance with Airbus, EasyJet, and Ørsted to propose a pathway to achieving hydrogen-powered aviation.

According to Erginbilgic, sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) is the only way for the airline industry and large aircraft to meet climate goals.

Earlier this year, Willie Walsh, Director General at the International Air Transport Association (IATA), said that the airline industry would be ready to embrace the fact that SAF would always be more expensive than oil-based jet fuel.

SAF is likely to always be more expensive than kerosene even when SAF supply grows in scale from the current very low volumes, the industry association’s head said.

Despite numerous pledges from airlines and government support for SAF production, the alternative of the petroleum-based jet fuel faces challenges in supply, costs, and feedstock, analysts say.

Rolls-Royce said on its capital markets day on Tuesday that it would also look into exiting its electrical business for propulsion systems developed for products and services such as flying taxis.  

“For example, in Rolls-Royce Electrical we are looking at options to exit in the short run or alternatively for the right value, reduce our position to minority with an intention to exit fully in the mid-term,” the UK company said.

“We believe, given the world-class capability we have built in Advanced Air Mobility, that this will represent good value to a third party and will allow us to focus on our core electrical engineering activities in Power Systems, Defence and Civil Aerospace,” Rolls-Royce added.

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By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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