GKN Aerospace to Develop Hydrogen Propulsion System for Short-Range Aircraft

GKN has allied with engineering firms and universities to develop a hydrogen-powered propulsion system for aircraft; £54 million project being funded jointly by the government and private players


GKN’s new Global Technology Centre, where H2GEAR will be developed.
Credit: GKN Aerospace

A UK-based aviation company, GKN Aerospace has announced that it will be developing a propulsion system for aircraft powered by green hydrogen. Called H2GEAR, the project is a collaboration of 2 engineering companies (Intelligent Energy, Aeristech) and universities (Newcastle University, Birmingham University, Manchester University) and is being supported by funds from the British government’s Aerospace Technology Institute. Matched by industry, the project’s total worth is £54 million.

H2GEAR will use hydrogen produced from electrolysis to electrify the propulsion system, thereby leaving water as the only by-product. The initiative is a critical step towards ushering in a new era of clean air travel which is entirely free of carbon dioxide emissions. GKN Aerospace has decided to use H2GEAR to power aircraft used for shorter, regional flights. The company is confident that after successful runs, the technology can be upgraded for aircraft plying on longer routes within the country and internationally. It is also hoped that H2GEAR will enable a widespread increase in the concept of air-taxis, reducing congestion on road networks.

The project will be implemented in GKN Aerospace’s Global Technology Centre in Bristol, which is expected to create almost 3,000 new jobs. Russ Dunn, Chief Technology Officer for GKN Aerospace, said: “Hydrogen-powered aircraft offer a clear route to keep the world connected, with dramatically cleaner skies… the H2GEAR project is an example of industry, academia and Government collaboration at its best. Working with our partners, and made possible by Government investment, GKN Aerospace will develop and industrialize the breakthrough technology to fly aircraft with zero CO2 emissions by the mid-2020s. This will not only create thousands of jobs, but it will keep the UK at the forefront of the next generation of cleaner air travel for decades to come.”

GKN Aerospace is banking on its longstanding experience and in-depth knowledge of propulsion technology to spearhead the project. The first hydrogen-powered aircraft is expected to be ready for commercial service as early as 2026.

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