The World Platinum Investment Council (WPIC) says developments in aviation – and across other modes of transport - are accelerating the adoption of hydrogen as a mainstream, sustainable fuel source.
The council notes that aerospace company Airbus is not alone in believing that hydrogen propulsion offers enormous promise as an alternative to hydrocarbon fuels in an industry that has committed to halving emissions by 2050, relative to 2005 levels.
Airbus recently announced plans to create the world’s first zero-emission commercial aircraft by 2035.
To bring this vision to reality, the company is developing game-changing concept aircraft — known as ZEROe — powered by hydrogen, a sustainable fuel source with, Airbus believes, the potential to reduce aircraft emissions by up to 50%.
Meanwhile, ZeroAvia, a developer of hydrogen powertrain solutions for aircraft, is also aiming to decarbonise medium-range small passenger aircraft by replacing conventional engines in propeller aircraft with electric motors, hydrogen fuel cells and gas storage.
The company plans to be ready to supply to commercial operators and aircraft manufacturers by 2023, initially targeting the market for regional flights of up to 500 miles in 10- to 20-seat fixed-wing aircraft.
Both Airbus and ZeroAvia aircraft will benefit from on-board electrical systems powered by platinum fuel cells, the WPIC points out. ZeroAvia recently achieved a world first when it successfully completed the test flight of a six-passenger airplane powered solely by a hydrogen fuel cell.
The council further notes that, in Denmark, Copenhagen Airports has formed a first-of-its-kind partnership with other transport operators, including Scandinavian Airlines, to develop an industrial-scale production facility to produce sustainable fuels for road, maritime and air transport in the Copenhagen area.
The partnership brings together the demand and supply side of sustainable fuels, with a vision to develop a production facility capable of delivering 250 000 t of sustainable fuel, including hydrogen, for aircraft, buses, trucks and maritime vessels by 2030.
The WPIC says that, in turning to hydrogen, the commercial aviation industry is taking its lead from the success of hydrogen fuel cells that use platinum catalysts as a key component in other transport modes, for example in fleet vehicles such as trucks and buses.
Hydrogen fuel cells offer an effective alternative powertrain for aircraft owing to their energy density and quick refuelling times, while they also have a much higher cycle life before replacement is necessary and operate quietly, which is an important consideration when developing aircraft.
Developments in aviation – and across other modes of transport - are accelerating the adoption of hydrogen as a mainstream, sustainable fuel source, the WPIC states.
It notes that, hand in glove with this transition, is the development of refuelling infrastructure, which, as the Copenhagen Airports partnership demonstrates, acts as an enabler of hydrogen demand across other modalities, including fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs).
“Investors are increasingly recognising the upside potential for platinum demand growth which could come as the hydrogen economy expands, from both increased green hydrogen generation, as well as the wider adoption of FCEVs, where platinum demand growth will be led by heavy-duty FCEVs, with significant demand from passenger FCEVs in the long term.
“Platinum catalysts are central to hydrogen fuel cell technology, as they are used not only in fuel cells, but also in the generation of green hydrogen from renewable sources,” the WPIC concludes.