The Anonymous Widower

High-Speed Low-Carbon Transport Between Great Britain And Ireland

Consider.

  • According to Statista, there were 13,160,000 passengers between the United Kingdom and the Irish Republic in 2019.
  • In 2019, Dublin Airport handled 32,907,673 passengers.
  • The six busiest routes from Dublin were Heathrow, Stansted, Amsterdam, Manchester, Birmingham and Stansted.
  • In 2018, Belfast International Airport handled 6,269,025 passengers.
  • The four busiest routes from Belfast International Airport were Stansted, Gatwick. Liverpool and Manchester, with the busiest route to Europe to Alicante.
  • In 2018, Belfast City Airport handled 2,445,529 passengers.
  • The four busiest routes from Belfast City Airport were Heathrow, Manchester, Birmingham and London City.

Note.

  1. The busiest routes at each airport are shown in descending order.
  2. There is a lot of air passengers between the two islands.
  3. Much of the traffic is geared towards London’s four main airports.
  4. Manchester and Liverpool get their fair share.

Decarbonisation of the air routes between the two islands will not be a trivial operation.

But technology is on the side of decarbonisation.

Class 805 Trains

Avanti West Coast have ordered thirteen bi-mode Class 805 trains, which will replace the diesel Class 221 trains currently working between London Euston and Holyhead.

  • They will run at 125 mph between Euston and Crewe using electric power.
  • If full in-cab digital signalling were to be installed on the electrified portion of the route, they may be able to run at 140 mph in places under the wires.
  • They will use diesel power on the North Wales Coast Line to reach Holyhead.
  • According to an article in Modern Railways, the Class 805 trains could be fitted with batteries.

I wouldn’t be surprised that when they are delivered, they are a version of the Hitachi’s Intercity Tri-Mode  Battery Train, the specification of which is shown in this Hitachi infographic.

Note.

  1. I suspect that the batteries will be used to handle regenerative braking on lines without electrification, which will save diesel fuel and carbon emissions.
  2. The trains accelerate faster, than those they replace.
  3. The claimed fuel and carbon saving is twenty percent.

It is intended that these trains will be introduced next year.

I believe that, these trains will speed up services between London Euston and Holyhead.

  • Currently, services take just over three-and-a-half hours.
  • There should be time savings on the electrification between London Euston and Crewe.
  • The operating speed on the North Wales Coast Line is 90 mph. This might be increased in sections.
  • Some extra electrification could be added, between say Crewe and Chester and possibly through Llandudno Junction.
  • I estimate that on the full journey, the trains could reduce emissions by up to sixty percent compared to the current diesel trains.

I think that a time of three hours could be achievable with the Class 805 trains.

New trains and a three hour journey time should attract more passengers to the route.

Holyhead

In Holyhead Hydrogen Hub Planned For Wales, I wrote about how the Port of Holyhead was becoming a hydrogen hub, in common with several other ports around the UK including Felixstowe, Harwich, Liverpool and Portsmouth.

Holyhead and the others could host zero-carbon hydrogen-powered ferries.

But this extract from the Wikipedia hints at work needed to be done to create a fast interchange  between trains and ferries.

There is access to the port via a building shared with Holyhead railway station, which is served by the North Wales Coast Line to Chester and London Euston. The walk between trains and ferry check in is less than two minutes, but longer from the remote platform 1, used by Avanti West Coast services.

This Google Map shows the Port of Holyhead.

I think there is a lot of potential to create an excellent interchange.

HSC Francisco

I am using the high-speed craft Francisco as an example of the way these ships are progressing.

  • Power comes from two gas-turbine engines, that run on liquified natural gas.
  • It can carry 1024 passengers and 150 cars.
  • It has a top speed of 58 knots or 67 mph. Not bad for a ship with a tonnage of over 7000.

This ship is in service between Buenos Aires and Montevideo.

Note.

  1. A craft like this could be designed to run on zero-carbon  liquid hydrogen or liquid ammonia.
  2. A high speed craft already runs between Dublin and Holyhead taking one hour and forty-nine minutes for the sixty-seven miles.

Other routes for a specially designed high speed craft might be.

  • Barrow and Belfast – 113 miles
  • Heysham and Belfast – 127 miles
  • Holyhead and Belfast – 103 miles
  • Liverpool and Belfast – 145 miles
  • Stranraer and Larne – 31 miles

Belfast looks a bit far from England, but Holyhead and Belfast could be a possibility.

London And Dublin Via Holyhead

I believe this route is definitely a possibility.

  • In a few years, with a few improvements on the route, I suspect that London Euston and Holyhead could be fairly close to three hours.
  • With faster bi-mode trains, Manchester Airport and Holyhead would be under three hours.
  • I would estimate, that a high speed craft built for the route could be under two hours between Holyhead and Dublin.

It certainly looks like London Euston and Dublin and Manchester Airport and Dublin would be under five hours.

In A Glimpse Of 2035, I imagined what it would be like to be on the first train between London and Dublin via the proposed fixed link between Scotland and Northern Ireland.

  • I felt that five-and-a-half hours was achievable for that journey.
  • The journey would have used High Speed Two to Wigan North Western.
  • I also stated that with improvements, London and Belfast could be three hours and Dublin would be an hour more.

So five hours between London Euston and Dublin using current technology without massive improvements and new lines could be small change well spent.

London And Belfast Via Holyhead

At 103 miles the ferry leg may be too long for even the fastest of the high speed craft, but if say the craft could do Holyhead and Belfast in two-and-a-half hours, it might just be a viable route.

  • It might also be possible to run the ferries to a harbour like Warrenpoint, which would be eighty-six miles.
  • An estimate based on the current high speed craft to Dublin, indicates a time of around two hours and twenty minutes.

It could be viable, if there was a fast connection between Warrenpoint and Belfast.

Conclusion

Once the new trains are running between London Euston and Holyhead, I would expect that an Irish entrepreneur will be looking to develop a fast train and ferry service between England and Wales, and the island of Ireland.

It could be sold, as the Greenest Way To Ireland.

Class 807 Trains

Avanti West Coast have ordered ten electric Class 807 trains, which will replace some of the diesel Class 221 trains.

  • They will run at 125 mph between Euston and Liverpool on the fully-electrified route.
  • If full in-cab digital signalling were to be installed on the route, they may be able to run at 140 mph in places.
  • These trains appear to be the first of the second generation of Hitachi trains and they seem to be built for speed and a sparking performance,
  • These trains will run at a frequency of two trains per hour (tph) between London and Liverpool Lime Street.
  • Alternate trains will stop at Liverpool South Parkway station.

In Will Avanti West Coast’s New Trains Be Able To Achieve London Euston and Liverpool Lime Street In Two Hours?, I came to the conclusion, that a two-hour journey time was possible, when the new Class 807 trains have entered service.

London And Belfast Via Liverpool And A Ferry

Consider.

  • An hour on the train to and from London will be saved compared to Holyhead.
  • The ferry terminal is in Birkenhead on the other side of the Mersey and change between Lime Street station and the ferry could take much longer than at Holyhead.
  • Birkenhead and Belfast is twice the distance of Holyhead and Dublin, so even a high speed craft would take three hours.

This Google Map shows the Ferry Terminal and the Birkenhead waterfront.

Note.

  1. The Ferry Terminal is indicated by the red arrow at the top of the map.
  2. There are rows of trucks waiting for the ferries.
  3. In the South East corner of the map, the terminal of the Mersey Ferry sticks out into the River
  4. Hamilton Square station is in-line with the Mersey Ferry at the bottom of the map and indicated with the usual red symbol.
  5. There is a courtesy bus from Hamilton Square station to the Ferry Terminal for Ireland.

There is a fourteen tph service between Hamilton Square and Liverpool Lime Street station.

This route may be possible, but the interchange could be slow and the ferry leg is challenging.

I don’t think the route would be viable unless a much faster ferry is developed. Does the military have some high speed craft under development?

Conclusion

London and Belfast via Liverpool and a ferry is probably a trip for enthusiasts or those needing to spend a day in Liverpool en route.

Other Ferry Routes

There are other ferry routes.

Heysham And Barrow-in-Furness

,These two ports might be possible, but neither has a good rail connection to London and the South of England.

They are both rail connected, but not to the standard of the connections at Holyhead and Liverpool.

Cairnryan

The Cairnryan route could probably be improved to be an excellent low-carbon route to Glasgow and Central Scotland.

Low-Carbon Flight Between The Islands Of Great Britain And Ireland

I think we’ll gradually see a progression to zero-carbon flight over the next few years.

Sustainable Aviation Fuel

Obviously zero-carbon would be better, but until zero-carbon aircraft are developed, there is always sustainable aviation fuel.

This can be produced from various carbon sources like biowaste or even household rubbish and disposable nappies.

British Airways are involved in a project called Altalto.

  • Altalto are building a plant at Immingham to turn household rubbish into sustainable aviation fuel.
  • This fuel can be used in jet airliners with very little modification of the aircraft.

I wrote about Altalto in Grant Shapps Announcement On Friday.

Smaller Low-Carbon Airliners

The first low- and zero-carbon airliners to be developed will be smaller with less range, than Boeing 737s and Airbus A 320s. These three are examples of three under development.

I feel that a nineteen seater aircraft with a range of 500 miles will be the first specially designed low- or zero-carbon airliner to be developed.

I believe these aircraft will offer advantages.

  • Some routes will only need refuelling at one end.
  • Lower noise and pollution.
  • Some will have the ability to work from short runways.
  • Some will be hybrid electric running on sustainable aviation fuel.

They may enable passenger services to some smaller airports.

Air Routes Between The Islands Of Great Britain And Ireland

These are distances from Belfast City Airport.

  • Aberdeen – 228 miles
  • Amsterdam – 557 miles
  • Birmingham – 226 miles
  • Blackpool – 128 miles
  • Cardiff – 246 miles
  • Edinburgh – 135 miles
  • Gatwick – 337 miles
  • Glasgow – 103 miles
  • Heathrow – 312 miles
  • Jersey – 406 miles
  • Kirkwall – 320 miles
  • Leeds – 177 miles
  • Liverpool – 151 miles
  • London City – 326 miles
  • Manchester – 170 miles
  • Newcastle – 168 miles
  • Southampton – 315 miles
  • Southend – 344 miles
  • Stansted – 292 miles
  • Sumburgh – 401 miles

Note.

  1. Some airports on this list do not currently have flights from Belfast City Airport.
  2. I have included Amsterdam for comparison.
  3. Distances to Belfast International Airport, which is a few miles to the West of Belfast City Airport are within a few miles of these distances.

It would appear that much of Great Britain is within 500 miles of Belfast City Airport.

These are distances from Dublin Airport.

  • Aberdeen – 305 miles
  • Amsterdam – 465 miles
  • Birmingham – 199 miles
  • Blackpool – 133 miles
  • Cardiff – 185 miles
  • Edinburgh – 208 miles
  • Gatwick – 300 miles
  • Heathrow – 278 miles
  • Jersey – 339 miles
  • Kirkwall – 402 miles
  • Leeds – 190 miles
  • Liverpool – 140 miles
  • London City – 296 miles
  • Manchester – 163 miles
  • Newcastle – 214 miles
  • Southampton – 268 miles
  • Southend – 319 miles
  • Stansted – 315 miles
  • Sumburgh – 483 miles

Note.

  1. Some airports on this list do not currently have flights from Dublin Airport.
  2. I have included Amsterdam for comparison.

It would appear that much of Great Britain is within 500 miles of Dublin Airport.

I will add a few long routes, that someone  might want to fly.

  • Cork and Aberdeen – 447 miles
  • Derry and Manston – 435 miles
  • Manston and Glasgow – 392 miles
  • Newquay and Aberdeen – 480 miles
  • Norwich and Stornaway – 486 miles.

I doubt there are many possible air services in the UK and Ireland that are longer than 500 miles.

I have a few general thoughts about low- and zero-carbon air services in and around the islands of Great Britain and Ireland.

  • The likely five hundred mile range of the first generation of low- and zero-carbon airliners fits the size of the these islands well.
  • These aircraft seem to have a cruising speed of between 200 and 250 mph, so flight times will not be unduly long.
  • Airports would need to have extra facilities to refuel or recharge these airliners.
  • Because of their size, there will need to be more flights on busy routes.
  • Routes which are less heavily used may well be developed, as low- or zero-carbon could be good for marketing the route.

I suspect they could be ideal for the development of new routes and even new eco-friendly airports.

Conclusion

I have come to the conclusion, that smaller low- or zero-carbon are a good fit for the islands of Great Britain and Ireland.

But then Flybe and Loganair have shown that you can make money flying smaller planes around these islands with the right planes, airports, strategy and management.

Hydrogen-Powered Planes From Airbus

Hydrogen-powered zero-carbon aircraft could be the future and Airbus have put down a marker as to the way they are thinking.

Airbus have proposed three different ZEROe designs, which are shown in this infographic.

The turboprop and the turbofan will be the type of designs, that could be used around Great Britain and Ireland.

The ZEROe Turboprop

This is Airbus’s summary of the design for the ZEROe Turboprop.

Two hybrid hydrogen turboprop engines, which drive the six bladed propellers, provide thrust. The liquid hydrogen storage and distribution system is located behind the rear pressure bulkhead.

This screen capture taken from the video, shows the plane.

It certainly is a layout that has been used successfully, by many conventionally-powered aircraft in the past. The De Havilland Canada Dash 8 and ATR 72 are still in production.

I don’t think the turboprop engines, that run on hydrogen will be a problem.

If you look at the Lockheed-Martin C 130J Super Hercules, you will see it is powered by four Rolls-Royce AE 2100D3 turboprop engines, that drive 6-bladed Dowty R391 composite constant-speed fully-feathering reversible-pitch propellers.

These Rolls-Royce engines are a development of an Allison design, but they also form the heart of Rolls-Royce’s 2.5 MW Generator, that I wrote about in Our Sustainability Journey. The generator was developed for use in Airbus’s electric flight research program.

I wouldn’t be surprised to find the following.

  • , The propulsion system for this aircraft is under test with hydrogen at Derby and Toulouse.
  • Dowty are testing propellers suitable for the aircraft.
  • Serious research is ongoing to store enough liquid hydrogen in a small tank that fits the design.

Why develop something new, when Rolls-Royce, Dowty and Lockheed have done all the basic design and testing?

This screen capture taken from the video, shows the front view of the plane.

From clues in the picture, I estimate that the fuselage diameter is around four metres. Which is not surprising, as the Airbus A320 has a height of 4.14 metres and a with of 3.95 metres. But it’s certainly larger than the fuselage of an ATR-72.

So is the ZEROe Turboprop based on a shortened Airbus A 320 fuselage?

  • The ATR 72 has a capacity of 70 passengers.
  • The ZEROe Turboprop has a capacity of less than a hundred passengers.
  • An Airbus A320 has six-abreast seating.
  • Could the ZEROe Turboprop have sixteen rows of seats, as there are sixteen windows in front of the wing?
  • With the seat pitch of an Airbus A 320, which is 81 centimetres, this means just under thirteen metres for the passengers.
  • There could be space for a sizeable hydrogen tank in the rear part of the fuselage.
  • The plane might even be able to use the latest A 320 cockpit.

It looks to me, that Airbus have designed a larger ATR 72 based on an A 320 fuselage.

I don’t feel there are any great technical challenges in building this aircraft.

  • The engines appear to be conventional and could even have been more-or-less fully developed.
  • The fuselage could be a development of an existing design.
  • The wings and tail-plane are not large and given the company’s experience with large composite structures, they shouldn’t be too challenging.
  • The hydrogen storage and distributing system will have to be designed, but as hydrogen is being used in increasing numbers of applications, I doubt the expertise will be difficult to find.
  • The avionics and other important systems could probably be borrowed from other Airbus products.

Given that the much larger and more complicated Airbus A380 was launched in 2000 and first flew in 2005, I think that a prototype of this aircraft could fly around the middle of this decade.

It may seem small at less than a hundred seats, but it does have a range of greater than a 1000 nautical miles or 1150 miles.

Consider.

  • It compares closely in passenger capacity, speed and range, with the De Havilland Canada Dash 8/400 and the ATR 72/600.
  • The ATR 72 is part-produced by Airbus.
  • The aircraft is forty percent slower than an Airbus A 320.
  • It looks like it could be designed to have a Short-Takeoff-And Landing (STOL) capability.

I can see the aircraft replacing Dash 8s, ATR 72s and similar aircraft all over the world. There are between 2000 and 3000 operational airliners in this segment.

The ZEROe Turbofan

This is Airbus’s summary of the design.

Two hybrid hydrogen turbofan engines provide thrust. The liquid hydrogen storage and distribution system is located behind the rear pressure bulkhead.

This screen capture taken from the video, shows the plane.

ZEROeTurbofan

This screen capture taken from the video, shows the front view of the plane.

The aircraft doesn’t look very different different to an Airbus A320 and appears to be fairly conventional. It does appear to have the characteristic tall winglets of the A 320 neo.

I don’t think the turbofan engines, that run on hydrogen will be a problem.

These could be standard turbofan engines modified to run on hydrogen, fuelled from a liquid hydrogen tank behind the rear pressure bulkhead of the fuselage.

If you want to learn more about gas turbine engines and hydrogen, read this article on the General Electric web site, which is entitled The Hydrogen Generation: These Gas Turbines Can Run On The Most Abundant Element In the Universe,

These are my thoughts of the marketing objectives of the ZEROe Turbofan.

  • The cruising speed and the number of passengers are surprisingly close, so has this aircraft been designed as an A 320 or Boeing 737 replacement?
  •  I suspect too, that it has been designed to be used at any airport, that could handle an Airbus A 320 or Boeing 737.
  • It would be able to fly point-to-point flights between most pairs of European or North American cities.

It would certainly fit the zero-carbon shorter range airliner market!

In fact it would more than fit the market, it would define it!

I very much believe that Airbus’s proposed zero-carbon hydrogen-powered designs and others like them will start to define aviation on routes of up to perhaps 3000 miles, from perhaps 2035.

  • The A 320 neo was launched in December 2010 and entered service in January 2016.  That was just five years and a month.
  • I suspect that a lot of components like the fuselage sections, cockpit, avionics, wings, landing gear, tailplane and cabin interior could be the same in a A 320 neo and a ZEROe Turbofan.
  • Flying surfaces and aerodynamics could be very similar in an A 320 neo and a ZEROe Turbofan
  • There could even be commonality between the ZEROe Turboprop and the ZEROe Turbofan, with respect to fuselage sections, cockpit, avionics and cabin interior.

There also must be the possibility, that if a ZEROe Turbofan is a hydrogen-powered A 320 neo, that this would enable the certification process to be simplified.

It might even be possible to remanufacture a A 320 neo into a ZEROe Turbofan. This would surely open up all sorts of marketing strategies.

My project management, flying and engineering knowledge says that if they launched the ZEROe Turbofan this year, it could be in service by the end of the decade on selected routes.

Conclusion

Both the ZEROe Turboprop and ZEROe Turbofan are genuine zero-carbon aircraft, which fit into two well-defined market segments.

I believe that these two aircraft and others like them from perhaps Boeing and Bombardier could be the future of aviation between say 500 and 3000 miles.

With the exception of the provision of hydrogen refuelling at airports, there will be no need for any airport infrastructure.

I also wouldn’t be surprised that the thinking Airbus appear to have applied to creating the ZEROe Turbofan from the successful A 320 neo, could be applied to perhaps create a hydrogen-powered A 350.

I feel that Airbus haven’t fulling disclosed their thinking.  But then no company would, when it reinvents itself.

T also think that short-haul air routes will increasing come under pressure.

The green lobby  would like airlines to decarbonise.

Governments will legislate that airlines must decarbonise.

The rail industry will increasingly look to attract customers away from the airlines, by providing more competitive times and emphasising their green credentials.

Aircraft manufacturers will come under pressure to deliver zero-carbon airliners as soon as they can.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see a prototype ZEROe Turbofan or Boeing’s equivalent fly as early as 2024.

Short Term Solutions

As I said earlier, one solution is to use existing aircraft with Sustainable Aviation Fuel.

But many believe this is greenwash and rather a cop out.

So we must do better!

I don’t believe that the smaller zero- and low-carbon aircraft with a range of up to 500 miles and a capacity of around 19 seats, will be able to handle all the passengers needing to fly between and around the islands of Great Britain and Ireland.

  • A Boeing 737 or Airbus A 320 has a capacity of around two hundred passengers, which would require ten times the number of flights, aircraft and pilots.
  • Airports would need expansion on the airside and the terminals to handle the extra planes.
  • Air Traffic Control would need to be expanded to handle the extra planes.

But the smaller planes would be ideal for the thinner secondary routes.

So I tend to think, that the greens will have to lump it, as Sustainable Aviation Fuel will increasingly be the only viable solution.

This will increase the need for Airbus or Boeing to develop a viable A 320 or 737-sized aircraft as soon as possible.

Air Bridges

I said earlier, that I believe using ferries between Ireland and Holyhead and new bi-mode Class 805 trains between London Euston and Holyhead could be a competitor to airlines.

  • The ferries would be high speed craft capable of Holyhead and Ireland in around 90-100 minutes.
  • The ferries would be zero-carbon.
  • The trains would have a sixty percent reduction in carbon emissions compared to current trains on the route.

If we can skim across the water in a zero-carbon high speed craft, are there any reasons we can’t cross the water in a low- or zero-carbon aircraft.

In the next few sub-sections, I’ll suggest a few air bridges.

Glasgow

Glasgow Airport could be an ideal airport for a  low or zero-carbon air bridge to Northern Ireland.

  • A rail link could eventually be built.
  • There is a reasonable amount of traffic.
  • The distance to Belfast City Airport is only 103 miles.

As the airport serves islands and other places that could be ideal low- and zero-carbon routes, I could see Glasgow becoming a hub for battery and hydrogen-powered aircraft.

Heathrow

Heathrow must prepare itself for an uncertain future.

It will be some years before a third runway is both needed and will have been constructed.

I believe the following will happen.

  • Smaller up to nineteen seat low- or zero-carbon airliners will be in service by 2025.
  • From around 2024, Heathrow will get requests to refuel or charge low- or zero-carbon airliners.
  • Low- or-zero- carbon A 320-size airliners will be in service by 2030.
  • Most ground equipment at Heathrow like tugs and fuel bowsers will be zero-carbon.

If I were Boris or Prime Minister, I would say that Heathrow could have its third runway with the following conditions.

  • All aircraft using the third runway must be zero-carbon
  • All air-side vehicles must be zero-carbon.
  • All vehicles bringing passengers on the last mile to the airport must be zero-carbon.
  • All aircraft using the airport that are not zero-carbon must use sustainable aviation fuel.

I suspect that the conditions would be met by a large margin.

When an airport knows it is effectively going to be closed, it will make sure it survives.

Liverpool

Liverpool Airport could be an ideal airport for a  low or zero-carbon air bridge to the island of Ireland.

  • There is a nearby Liverpool South Parkway station, with frequent services to both the local area and places further away.
  • An improved London train service starts in 2022 or 2023.
  • There would need to be a people mover between the station and the airport.
  • The airport can probably have piped hydrogen from across the Mersey.
  • There is already significant traffic to and from the island of Ireland.
  • Flight times Between Liverpool and Dublin and Belfast would be under an hour.

I also feel that Liverpool could develop lots of other low- and zero-carbon routes to perhaps Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Norwich, Southampton and the Isle of Man.

I could even see Liverpool having a Turn-Up-And-Go shuttle service to Dublin and Belfast, with small zero-carbon planes running every fifteen minutes or so.

Manston

I wouldn’t rule out Manston as a low- and zero-carbon airport for flights to the Benelux countries and Northern France and parts of Germany.

These are a few distances from Manston Airport.

  • Amsterdam – 160 miles
  • Brussels – 134 miles
  • Cologne – 253 miles
  • Dusseldorf – 234 miles
  • Frankfurt – 328 miles
  • Geneva – 414 miles
  • Hamburg – 396 miles
  • Le Touquet – 59 miles
  • Lille – 49 miles
  • Luxembourg – 243 miles
  • Ostend – 66 miles
  • Strasbourg – 339 miles

Manston’s position on the tip of Kent gives it an advantage and I think low- and zero-carbon services could reach Cologne, Frankfurt, Geneva, Hamburg and Strasbourg.

The airport also has other advantages.

  • A big electrolyser to produce hydrogen is being built at Herne Bay.
  • The area is rich in wind and solar energy.
  • I suspect the airspace to the East of the airport isn’t very busy and short hops to the Continent could be easy to slot in.

There is a new station being built at Thanet Parkway, which is on the Ashford and Ramsgate Line, which has regular services to London, including some services on High Speed One.

This Google Map shows the location of the airport and the station.

Note.

  1. The runway of Manston Airport.
  2. The Ashford and Ramsgate Line running across the South-East corner of the map.
  3. The station could be built to the West of the village of Cliffsend, which is indicated by the red arrow.
  4. I’m sure, a people mover or a zero-carbon bus could be built to connect the station and the airport.

There would need to be improvements in the frequency of services to and from London, but I’m sure Manston Airport could become an ideal airport for low- and zero-carbon aircraft serving the near Continent.

Southampton

Southampton Airport could be the ideal design for an airport to serve an air bridge.

  • The Southampton Airport Parkway station is connected to the terminal.
  • The station has numerous rail services, including a fast service to and from London.
  • The airport is expanding and could make sure all works are compatible with a low- and zero-carbon future.

Southampton is not ideally placed for services to Ireland, but with low- and zero-carbon aircraft it could be ideal for running services to the Channel Islands and Western France.

Other Airports

I suspect other airports will go the low- and zero-carbon route.

Conclusion

I started this post, with the intention of writing about writing about low- and zero-carbon transport between the islands of Great Britain and Ireland.

But it has grown.

I have now come to the conclusion that there are several low- and zero-carbon routes that could be developed.

The most promising would appear to be.

  • London Euston and Belfast by new Class 805 train to Holyhead and then zero-carbon high speed ferry.
  • London Euston and Dublin by new Class 805 train to Holyhead and then zero-carbon high speed ferry.
  • Glasgow and Belfast by train to Cairnryan and then zero-carbon high speed ferry.
  • Point-to-point air routes using new small nineteen seat low- or zero-carbon airliners with a range of 500 miles.
  • London Euston and Belfast by new Class 807 train to Liverpool Airport and then smaller low- or zero-carbon airliner.
  • London Euston and Dublin by new Class 807 train to Liverpool Airport and then and then smaller low- or zero-carbon airliner.
  • Other air bridges will develop.

But I am fairly certain by the end of the decade, there will be A320-size airlines powered by hydrogen taking us to Ireland and Western Europe.

I believe that the survival and ultimate prospering of Airbus and Boeing depends on the development of a range of zero-carbon airliners.

For this reason alone, they will succeed.

April 22, 2021 Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

France’s Aura Aero Unveils 19-Seat Electric Aircraft Development Plan

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on Flight Global.

This is the introductory paragraph.

French aerospace firm Aura Aero is intending to develop a 19-seat electric-powered regional aircraft, as it looks to certify its two-seat Integral R light single.

For a better picture and more information, look at this article in The Times, which is entitled French Electric Airliner Will Take To The Skies In Five Years.

Some clues as to the specification from the article and around the web.

  • Nineteen seats.
  • Maiden flight by 2024 and in service entry in 2026.
  • It has six electric engines.
  • Three hundred mile range.
  • Hybrid power will be used to extend the range to 500 miles.
  • A freighter version will be available.

This paragraph is from The Times article.

This week the company began production of a new two-seater plane made of carbon-wood, a lightweight composite material. It is confident that it can meet its ambitious timetable in a race to beat rivals in Europe, the US and Israel and overcome the formidable weight and range barriers to commercial electric passenger flight.

A carbon-wood airframe hints at possibly the world’s most successful composite aircraft; the wooden De Havilland Mosquito, which was light, strong and very fast.

  • In fact, it was so fast, one aircraft could bomb Germany twice in one night, with two crews and a refuelling and a rearming in between.
  • It could also carry a bomb load not far short of that of a Boeing B17 Flying Fortress.

Sadly, we didn’t realise the full potential of this aircraft in World War II, but if we had, fewer aircrew and civilians on the ground would have died, as waves of Mosquitos could have knocked out important targets with precision and surprise. I wrote about one of their precision raids in The Kunstzaal Kleizkamp Raid.

Conclusion

I think the mathematics and regulations point to an aircraft with the following specification, being the right plane to develop.

  • Nineteen seats
  • 300 mile range
  • Versatile interior
  • Sustainable aviation fuel range extender

It appears that both the Aura Aero Era and the Faradair BEHA  are aimed at this market, with the Cessna eCaravan and the Eviation Alice aimed at a smaller number of passengers.

Note.

  1. Sustainable aviation fuel doesn’t need any specialist handling and can be delivered to the aircraft in a normal bowser.
  2. I suspect that one electric aircraft manufacturer or electric vehicle support company will develop a charging system, for the batteries, that is based on a vehicle that just plugs into the aircraft during loading.

I think this segment of the aviation market could be a big one and I wouldn’t be surprised to see other companies bringing forward 19 seat/300 miles aircraft.

Although, the market could be a bit squashed from the top. Airbus have proposed a ZEROe Turboprop, which I wrote about in ZEROe – Towards The World’s First Zero-Emission Commercial Aircraft.

This would be capable of carrying up to a hundred passengers over a thousand nautical miles, with no emissions except water.

 

March 27, 2021 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Flying A Hydrogen-Powered ZEROe

The ZEROe Turbofan and the ZEROe Turboprop, both have a large liquid hydrogen tank in the rear fuselage.

Will this affect the handling characteristics of the aircraft and make them difficult to fly?

The balance will probably be different as the weight of the tank with a full load of hydrogen could be significant. Think putting two bags of cement in the back of a typical hatchback car.

But all Airbuses should handle the different feel easily.

The three main flight control surfaces, by which pilots control the aircraft; ailerons, elevator and rudder are not actually controlled directly by the pilots, but by computers that are connected between the controls the pilot uses and the control surfaces themselves.

This means that control methods, which are unavailable on an aircraft with traditional controls, can be used to fly the aircraft.

So this means that any problems caused by the heavy weight in the rear of the fuselage can be solved.

 

 

September 25, 2020 Posted by | Computing, Hydrogen, Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

ZEROe – Towards The World’s First Zero-Emission Commercial Aircraft

The title of this post, is the same as that of this Press Release from Airbus.

This is the introductory paragraph.

At Airbus, we have the ambition to develop the world’s first zero-emission commercial aircraft by 2035. Hydrogen propulsion will help us to deliver on this ambition. Our ZEROe concept aircraft enable us to explore a variety of configurations and hydrogen technologies that will shape the development of our future zero-emission aircraft.

Overall, the Press Release discloses a lot and gives details of three different aircraft, which are shown in this Airbus infographic.

Discover the three zero-emission concept aircraft known as ZEROe in this infographic. These turbofan, turboprop, and blended-wing-body configurations are all hydrogen hybrid aircraft.

I have some thoughts that apply to all three concepts.

Hydrogen Hybrid Power

The Press Release says this about the propulsion systems for the three aircraft.

All three ZEROe concepts are hydrogen hybrid aircraft. They are powered by hydrogen combustion through modified gas-turbine engines. Liquid hydrogen is used as fuel for combustion with oxygen.

In addition, hydrogen fuel cells create electrical power that complements the gas turbine, resulting in a highly efficient hybrid-electric propulsion system. All of these technologies are complementary, and the benefits are additive.

There is a Wikipedia entry which is entitled Hydrogen Fuel, where this is said.

Once produced, hydrogen can be used in much the same way as natural gas – it can be delivered to fuel cells to generate electricity and heat, used in a combined cycle gas turbine to produce larger quantities of centrally produced electricity or burned to run a combustion engine; all methods producing no carbon or methane emissions.

It looks like the aircraft will be powered by engines that are not too different to the current engines in today’s aircraft.

This must be a big advantage, in that much of the research done to improve the current gas-turbine powered by aviation fuel will apply.

Liquid Hydrogen

It appears all three aircraft will use liquid hydrogen.

Liquid Hydrogen Storage

I believe the major uses for hydrogen will be aircraft, buses, cars, rail locomotives and multiple units and heavy trucks.

All will need efficient storage of the hydrogen.

Some applications, will use it in liquid form, as it is a more dense form, but it will need to be kept cold.

As aviation will probably be the most demanding application, will it drive the storage technology?

Oxygen

This will be atmospheric oxygen, which is used by any combustion engine.

Fuel Cells

Will the fuel cells be used to provide power for the plane’s systems, rather than to power the aircraft?

Most airlines do this with an auxiliary power unit or APU, which is just a small gas-turbine engine with a generator. The A 320 family use one made by Pratt & Whitney, which is described on this page of their web site. It is the third one on the page and is called a APS3200. This is said about its function.

Pratt & Whitney APS3200 is the Airbus baseline APU of choice for the Airbus A320 family of aircraft. It is designed to meet performance and environmental requirements for modern day, single-aisle aircraft. The APU comprises a single-shaft, fixedspeed, high-pressure ratio core driving a load compressor that provides bleed air for cabin conditioning and main engine starting, concurrent with 90kVA of electrical power.

The APU is usually located in the tail.

In the ZEROe family will there be a fuel-cell powered compressor to provide bleed air for cabin airconditioning and main engine starting?

Slippery Aerodynamics

Airbus seem to be the masters of slippery aerodynamics, which will help make the planes very fuel efficient.

Lightweight Composite Structures

Like the latest Airbus airliners, these planes will be made from lightweight composite structures and I wouldn’t be surprised to see weight saving in other parts of the aircraft.

Carbon Emissions And Pollution

There will be no carbon dioxide produced, as where’s the carbon in the fuel?

But there could be small amounts of the oxides of nitrogen produced, by the combustion, as nitrogen will be present from the air.

Noise

As the aircraft are powered by gas-turbine engines, there will be some noise.

The Mathematics Of Hydrogen-Powered Aviation

The mathematics for these three aircraft must say, that the designs are feasible.

Otherwise Airbus wouldn’t have published a detailed Press Release, only for it to be torn to pieces.

Pressures Driving Aviation In The Next Ten Years

Aviation will change in the text ten years and it will be driven by various competing forces.

Environmental Issues

Pollution, Carbon Emissions and Noise will be the big environmental issues.

Hydrogen will go a long way to reducing the first two issues, but progress with noise will generally be made by better engineering.

COVID-19 And Future Pandemics

These could have a bigger effect, as to make flying safe in these troubled times, passengers will need to be given more space.

But I do wonder, if there is an administrative solution, backed up, by innovative engineering.

Could a very quick test for COVID-19, that would stop infected passengers boarding, coupled with high quality automatic cleaning and air purification, ensure that passengers didn’t get infected?

Entry Into Service

Airbus are quoting 2035 in the Press Release and this YouTube video.

Is that ambitious?

Thoughts On The Three Designs

My thoughts on the three designs, follow in the next three sections.

The ZEROe Turboprop

This is Airbus’s summary of the design for the ZEROe Turboprop.

Two hybrid hydrogen turboprop engines, which drive the six bladed propellers, provide thrust. The liquid hydrogen storage and distribution system is located behind the rear pressure bulkhead.

This screen capture taken from the video, shows the plane.

It certainly is a layout that has been used successfully, by many conventionally-powered aircraft in the past. The De Havilland Canada Dash 8 and ATR 72 are still in production.

The Turboprop Engines

If you look at the Lockheed-Martin C 130J Super Hercules, you will see it is powered by four Rolls-Royce AE 2100D3 turboprop engines, that drive 6-bladed Dowty R391 composite constant-speed fully-feathering reversible-pitch propellers.

These Rolls-Royce engines are a development of an Allison design, but they also form the heart of Rolls-Royce’s 2.5 MW Generator, that I wrote about in Our Sustainability Journey. The generator was developed for use in Airbus’s electric flight research program.

I wouldn’t be surprised to find the following.

  • , The propulsion system for this aircraft is under test with hydrogen at Derby and Toulouse.
  • Dowty are testing propellers suitable for the aircraft.
  • Serious research is ongoing to store enough liquid hydrogen in a small tank that fits the design.

Why develop something new, when Rolls-Royce, Dowty and Lockheed have done all the basic design and testing?

The Fuselage

This screen capture taken from the video, shows the front view of the plane.

From clues in the picture, I estimate that the fuselage diameter is around four metres. Which is not surprising, as the Airbus A320 has a height of 4.14 metres and a with of 3.95 metres.

So is the ZEROe Turboprop based on a shortened Airbus A 320 fuselage?

As the aircraft has a capacity of less than a hundred passengers and an Airbus A320 has six-abreast seating, could the aircraft have sixteen rows of seats.

With the seat pitch of an Airbus A 320, which is 81 centimetres, this means just under thirteen metres for the passengers.

The Technical Challenge

I don’t feel there are any great technical challenges in building this aircraft.

  • The engines appear to be conventional and could even have been more-or-less fully developed.
  • The fuselage could be a development of an existing design.
  • The wings and tail-plane are not large and given the company’s experience with large composite structures, they shouldn’t be too challenging.
  • The hydrogen storage and distributing system will have to be designed, but as hydrogen is being used in increasing numbers of applications, I doubt the expertise will be difficult to find.
  • The avionics and other important systems could probably be borrowed from other Airbus products.

Given that the much larger and more complicated Airbus A380 was launched in 2000 and first flew in 2005, I think that a prototype of this aircraft could fly around the middle of this decade.

The Market Segment

It may seem small at less than a hundred seats, but it does have a range of greater than a 1000 nautical miles or 1150 miles.

Consider.

  • It compares closely in passenger capacity, speed and range, with the De Havilland Canada Dash 8/400 and the ATR 72/600.
  • The ATR 72 is part produced by Airbus.
  • The aircraft is forty percent slower than an Airbus A 320.
  • It is a genuine zero-carbon aircraft.
  • It looks like it could be designed to have a Short-Takeoff-And Landing (STOL) capability.

On the other hand, a lot of busy routes, like London and Edinburgh and Berlin and Munich are less than or around 400 miles.

These short routes are being challenged aggressively by the rail industry, as over this sort of distance, which typically takes four hours by train, rail has enough advantages, that passengers may choose not to fly.

Examples of cities with a range of between 400 and 1000 miles from London include.

  • Berlin – 571 miles
  • Cork – 354 miles
  • Inverness – 445 miles
  • Lisbon – 991 miles
  • Madrid – 781 miles
  • Palma – 835 miles
  • Rome – 893 miles
  • Stockholm – 892 miles
  • Warsaw – 900 miles

This aircraft would appear to be sized as an aircraft, that can fly further than passengers are happy to travel by train. But because of its cruising speed, the routes, where it will be viable would probably be limited in duration.

But important routes to, from and between secondary locations, like those that used to be flown by FlyBe, would surely be naturals for this aircraft.

It looks to be an aircraft that could have a big future.

The ZEROe Turbofan

This is Airbus’s summary of the design.

Two hybrid hydrogen turbofan engines provide thrust. The liquid hydrogen storage and distribution system is located behind the rear pressure bulkhead.

This screen capture taken from the video, shows the plane.

ZEROeTurbofan

This screen capture taken from the video, shows the front view of the plane.

The aircraft doesn’t look very different different to an Airbus A320 and appears to be fairly conventional. It does appear to have the characteristic tall winglets of the A 320 neo.

The Turbofan Engines

These would be standard turbofan engines modified to run on hydrogen, fuelled from a liquid hydrogen tank behind the rear pressure bulkhead of the fuselage.

If you want to learn more about gas turbine engines and hydrogen, read this article on the General Electric web site, which is entitled The Hydrogen Generation: These Gas Turbines Can Run On The Most Abundant Element In the Universe,

Range And Performance

I will compare range, performance and capacity with the latest Airbus A 320.

ZEROe Turbofan

  • Range – 2300 miles
  • Cruising Speed – Mach 0.78
  • Capacity – < 200 passengers

Airbus A 320

  • Range – 3800 miles
  • Cruising Speed – Mach 0.82
  • Capacity – 190 passengers

There is not too much difference, except that the A 320 has a longer range.

The Cockpits Of The ZEROe Turboprop And The ZEROe Turbofan

This gallery puts the two cockpit images together.

Are they by any chance related?

Could the controls and avionics in both aircraft be the same?

A quick look says that like the Boeing 757 and 767, the two planes have a lot in common, which may enable a pilot trained on one aircraft to fly the other, with only minimal extra instruction.

And would it be a simple process to upgrade a pilot from an A 320 to a ZEROe Turbofan?

The Fuselages Of The ZEROe Turboprop And The ZEROe Turbofan

I estimated earlier that the fuselage of the Turboprop was based on the cross-section of the A320.

Looking at the pair of front views, I wouldn’t be surprised to find, that both aircraft are based on an updated A 320 fuselage design.

Passengers and flightcrew would certainly feel at home in the ZEROe Turbofan, if internally, it was the same size, layout and equipment as a standard A 320 or more likely an A 320 neo.

The Market Segment

These are my thoughts of the marketing objectives of the ZEROe Turbofan.

  • The cruising speed and the number of passengers are surprisingly close, so has this aircraft been designed as an A 320 or Boeing 737 replacement?
  •  I suspect too, that it has been designed to be used at any airport, that could handle an Airbus A 320 or Boeing 737.
  • It would be able to fly point-to-point flights between most pairs of European or North American cities.

It would certainly fit the zero-carbon shorter range airliner market!

In fact it would more than fit the market, it would define it!

The ZEROe Blended-Wing Body

This is Airbus’s summary of the design.

The exceptionally wide interior opens up multiple options for hydrogen storage and distribution. Here, the liquid hydrogen storage tanks are stored underneath the wings. Two hybrid hydrogen turbofan engines provide thrust.

This screen capture taken from the video, shows the plane.

This aircraft is proposed to have the same performance and capacity as the ZEROe Turbofan, which includes a 2000 nautical mile plus range.

The only other aircraft with a similar shape is the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit or Stealth Bomber. This is not a fast aircraft, but it is able to fly at an altitude of 50,000 ft, which compares to the 60,000 ft of Concorde and the 43,000 ft of an Airbus A 380.

I wonder, if the blended-wing body is designed to fly very high at around the 60,000 ft, which was Concorde territory.

It would only be doing 515 mph and would be well below the speed of sound.

So what is the point on going so high?

The air is very thin and there is a lot less drag.

It is also worth reading Wikipedia on the design of flying wings.

It might be possible to fly much further than 2000 nautical miles. After all Airbus did put in a plus sign!

Is this aircraft the long-distance aircraft of the three?

Extending The Range

I do wonder, if the engines in these aircraft could be capable of running on both hydrogen and aviation biofuel.

As the ZEROe Turboprop and the ZEROe Turbofan planes have empty wings, which in a conventional aircraft would hold fuel, could the space be used to hold aviation biofuel to extend the range?

Certification Of The Planes

The ZEROe Turboprop and ZEROe Turbofan are aircraft, where a lot of the design will already have been proven in previous aircraft, so will probably be much less onerous to approve, than the blended-wing body design.

Conclusion

It looks to me, that Airbus have designed three aircraft to cover the airline market.

I also feel that as the ZEROe Turboprop and ZEROe Turbofan, appear to have conventional airframes, that they could be delivered before 2035.

If I’m right, that the blended-wing body is a high flyer, it will be a ride to experience, travelling at that height all the way to New York.

September 22, 2020 Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport | , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments