Publication Detail

The Hydrogen Fuel Pathway for Air Transportation


Research Report

Sustainable Transportation Energy Pathways (STEPS), Alumni Theses and Dissertations

Suggested Citation:
Li, Guozhen (2015) The Hydrogen Fuel Pathway for Air Transportation. Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California, Davis, Research Report UCD-ITS-RR-15-31

This thesis is a preliminary investigation into the technical feasibility and cost effectiveness of a hydrogen-fueled aviation system. A review on hydrogen aircraft reveals that designing and manufacturing hydrogen-powered aircraft is technically feasible. Major hydrogen supply technologies are available, but their capacity is far below the need of a hydrogen aviation system. A large airport such as San Francisco International Airport (SFO) can consume over 3000 metric tons of hydrogen per day, if its air traffic is entirely fueled by hydrogen. Such an energy flow could support over 3 million typical hydrogen fuel cell cars’ normal use. Airport liquid hydrogen cost modeling provides an estimation of hydrogen fuel cost as an aviation fuel. The cost is found to be 20%-90% higher than conventional jet fuel on a per energy basis, and supplying liquid hydrogen creates major electric power and land use challenge to the airport. The economies of scale are limited when hydrogen is supplied at an airport level scale, given hydrogen production, liquefaction, delivery, and storage technologies available today. Compared to other alternative aviation fuels (e.g. biofuel and LNG), hydrogen is highly costly but offers huge GHG saving potentials.

Keywords: alternative aviation fuel, hydrogen, airport, zero emission aviation