The UK’s net zero target of 2050 requires the aviation industry to reduce its emissions and hydrogen-fuelled flight is one of the most promising solutions to help achieve this goal. This report is part of the Zero Emissions Flight Infrastructure (ZEFI) programme and presents a roadmap to enable hydrogen-fuelled flight in the UK with a focus on aircraft and propulsion technologies, airport infrastructure and the hydrogen economy. This roadmap builds on the ZEFI roadmap produced by Connected Places Catapult in 2022. The ZEFI programme was funded by the Department for Transport however the findings reported are independently collated from the industry by Connected Places Catapult.
Our latest roadmap focuses solely on hydrogen flight. It integrates insights from our modelling work, stakeholder engagement and analysis of published roadmaps to develop a clear pathway for delivering hydrogen infrastructure across a full range of airport sizes. To better inform industry, we have developed specific recommendations matching the differing needs, constraints and infrastructure across various airport archetypes. Since the publication of the previous roadmap in 2022, there has been an increase in published roadmaps, plans and policies. We have used the latest information available to inform this update.
The first trials of hydrogen-fuelled aircraft are already underway. Initial commercial operations are expected to begin at small airports as early as 2025. These first operations aim to demonstrate viability of hydrogen use in aviation using under 19 seat commuter aircraft. Larger aircraft and airports will follow, with the critical decade of rapid expansion of hydrogen operations occurring between 2030 and 2040. This means that core infrastructure must be in place by 2030 to enable a smooth transition to hydrogen-fuelled flight, with rapid scaling of this infrastructure required within the 2030s, reaching a plateau by the early 2040s.
The supply of net zero hydrogen will be challenging in transitioning to hydrogen-fuelled flight, but the hydrogen economy is developing rapidly. Clusters of producers are expected to come online, and a backbone of hydrogen pipelines across the UK is being developed which will connect clusters and facilitate the distribution of hydrogen to key locations. Larger airports will require pipeline delivery and should engage early with stakeholders. Smaller airports have new opportunities to produce their own fuel from renewable energy and become local hydrogen hubs.
To meet the tight timescales for the introduction of hydrogen aviation in the UK, the many stakeholders involved must work together to develop and implement technologies rapidly. By linking aircraft and propulsion technologies to airport infrastructure and hydrogen economy, the report authors identify a series of recommendations summarised by stakeholder.