Embraer used the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, this week as the occasion to announce a new family of greener airliners that it says will reduce carbon emissions. The four concept aircraft in the Energia family, which range from a hybrid commuter plane to one flying on hydrogen fuel cells, are part of a pledge by the commercial aviation industry to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
“The future of aviation must have a lower impact,” Embraer said on its site detailing the plans. “It means lower emissions, lower noise levels and lower fuel consumption.”
Embraer says the four concepts could enter service between 2030 and 2040, but that would depend on reaching final designs that are built, tested, certified and purchased by airlines (in other words, it could take a while). Here’s how they stack up.
- The Energia Hybrid would seat seat nine people and two have rear-mounted and a hybrid-electric propulsion system. It would reduce carbon emissions by up to 90%
- The Energia Electric would have two contra-rotating propellers, or two propellers mounted one behind the other, on the tail assembly. It would fit nine passengers and have zero emissions being all-electric. (Embrarer isn’t the only company developing electric aircraft.)
- The Energia H2 Fuel Cell gets a bit bigger with room for 19 passengers. With its two rear-mounted engines it looks a bit like the Hybrid, but it would run hydrogen fuel cells and produce zero emissions.
- Lastly, the Energia H2 Gas Turbine would have a gas turbine with two different fuel sources (biofuel or hydrogen) and produce zero emissions. It would be the biggest of the lot with 35 to 50 seats and would also have two rear-mounted engines.
The Brazilian company also has pledged to reduce its own carbon emissions by 50% starting in 2030, a number that reflects the industry’s growing awareness of its responsibly for pursuing sustainable technologies. Most estimates say air travel is responsible for 5% of the emission causing climate change, and the UN has predicted that amount could triple by 2050.
Embraer’s announcement comes a year after Airbus, which also has signed the industry 2050 pledge, showed three concepts for hydrogen-hybrid aircraft powered by modified gas turbine engines that burn liquid hydrogen as fuel. Rival Boeing has yet to promote completely new designs for sustainable airliners, but it has promised that its airplanes will “be capable and certified” to fly on 100% sustainable fuel by 2030, and it will use an existing 737 Max 9 as an “ecoDemonstrator” to test greener aviation technologies.