KHI to develop components for hydrogen-powered aircraft

Courtesy of Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Ltd.
An image of hydrogen-powered aircraft for which Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Ltd. plans to develop key components

Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Ltd. will develop key components for next-generation hydrogen-powered aircraft, aiming to put them to practical use around 2040, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

The company hopes to supply hydrogen engine parts and fuel tanks to major overseas aircraft manufacturers. It aims to show its prowess in producing core technology for hydrogen-powered aircraft, which do not emit carbon dioxide during flight.

The parts KHI plans to develop include combustors that burn hydrogen to generate propulsion and storage tanks for liquefied hydrogen.

The company will study the structure of an aircraft on which a hydrogen tank can be more efficiently installed, as the tank requires great strength and is difficult to make smaller. The tank is expected to be used on passenger aircraft with about 150 seats and a flight range of 2,000 to 3,000 kilometers.

The company plans to spend about ¥18 billion on research and development, more than 90% of which will be funded by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization. The company will start ground testing prototypes of each component by 2030 and expects sales of tens of billions of yen by around 2050.

Kawasaki Heavy Industries, which has been making fuselages and engine parts for fossil fuel-powered passenger planes, also has strengths in hydrogen storage technologies. It has built the world’s first carrier specializing in the transport of liquified hydrogen.

It is conducting joint research with Airbus SE, a major European aircraft manufacturer, on how to supply hydrogen to aircraft. Airbus plans to commercialize hydrogen-powered aircraft by 2035.