September 23, 2023

Hydrogen fuel makes sense for air cargo, developer says


This fireside chat recap is from FreightWaves’ Net-Zero Carbon Summit on Thursday. 

FIRESIDE CHAT TOPIC: Achieving eco-friendly flight with hydrogen and innovative cargo jets

DETAILS: Novadev founder and CEO Michael Kramer talks with FreightWaves’ Air Cargo Editor Eric Kulisch about the limitations of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) as a clean-energy source for commercial aviation and how planes designed for hydrogen power could make a difference, especially in air cargo.


On the difference between net zero and zero carbon: “Zero carbon means that there’s no carbon anywhere in the life cycle of that fuel. That means there’s no carbon introduced when you make it. There’s no carbon introduced when you transport it. And then there’s no carbon produced when you use it to fly the airplane. Right now, the only fuel that’s really, truly zero carbon is hydrogen that’s made from green energy. When we talk about SAF, the goal is net zero. The idea being can I take carbon that’s already out there, like CO2 from, let’s say, biomass that’s leftover from farming, take that carbon, recycle that carbon into a field that I can fly the airplane on with the goal of net zero carbon? I’m not introducing more carbon into the environment. … SAF is going to be a bridge fuel. …  But SAF isn’t the same as hydrogen as far as clean and zero.”

Why the air cargo sector is better for implementing hydrogen fuel: Express cargo planes operate in a hub-and-spoke network where the planes rest between rotations. “At Southwest Airlines, the airplane might hit eight stops before it goes back home. The big cargo carriers are  going to want to develop airplanes that are designed for cargo. It might as well have hydrogen and SAF as an option in that cargo plane. So, the infrastructure just lends itself better to hydrogen.”

Changing the air cargo paradigm:  “Historically, cargo airplanes have been passenger planes. So they take the seats out, they’re designed around the elbows. … This aircraft we’re developing for cargo is designed around rectangular cargo containers. So what we’re trying to do is also break that dependence on never-designed-to-carry-cargo airplanes and producing a product that’s ideal for freight.”


The second annual F3: Future of Freight Festival will be held in Chattanooga, “The Scenic City,” this November. F3 combines innovation and entertainment — featuring live demos, industry experts discussing freight market trends for 2024, afternoon networking events, and Grammy Award-winning musicians performing in the evenings amidst the cool Appalachian fall weather.

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