The UK is to focus on developing hydrogen-powered transport in order to decarbonise air travel, according to the transport secretary.
Speaking at the Expo 2020 Dubai, Grant Shapps announced plans for an innovation centre in partnership with the United Arab Emirates, where the focus will be technologies that can reduce emissions for the aviation and shipping industries.
“The biggest challenge is decarbonising international transport,” said Mr Shapps at a future travel forum at the UK pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai, which was postponed from last year due to the pandemic.
“One of our priorities will be to promote different forms of hydrogen-powered transport in Dubai to become a focus of collaboration between the two countries.
“It is one thing to do it domestically, but rising maritime and aviation emissions are a global problem and need a global solution.”
He added that a transport “revolution” was on the horizon: “It won’t be triggered by a single innovation, but something more complex and a whole range of technologies using electricity, hydrogen and big data to operate the way we travel.
“We must break a 200-year-old link between the rise in travel and the rise of carbon emissions, that will be our big challenge.”
The innovation centre will open in 2022 in District 2020, the site of Expo 2020.
Mr Shapps emphasised that one of the biggest focuses would be cutting flight emissions.
“If we can decarbonise aviation, the rest of transport is relatively straightforward,” he said.
“Long-term targets need to be balanced with short-term goals like expanding the roll-out of sustainable aviation fuels.
“We want to boost that acceleration towards cleaner fuels, and we are working with the UAE to bring that initiative alive.”
He also laid out a target of achieving zero shipping emissions by 2050.
Although hydrogen and electricity both have the potential to achieve zero-carbon flights, both come with significant obstacles when it comes to rolling them out at scale worldwide – particularly when it comes to long-haul routes.
Electric-powered flights will only be viable for short-haul hops for the foreseeable due to the inherent weight of the batteries needed to operate them, while the volume of liquid hydrogen required to fuel a flight is four times that of kerosene.
The latter technology also requires a major infrastructure overhaul at airports in order to be viable: places to store hydrogen at the required temperature, different refuelling stations and, most likely, new aircraft.
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies