A fully fueled Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner can fly roughly 8,000 miles while ferrying 300 or so passengers and their luggage. A battery with the energy equivalent to that fuel would weigh about 6.6 million pounds. That’s why — despite environmental advantages — we don’t have battery-powered electric airliners.
But aviation companies working to make cleaner aircraft are exploring the use of hydrogen, the world’s most abundant element, to power both electric and combustion engines — and to make air travel more eco-friendly.
Hydrogen-powered planes are already aloft, although mostly as small, experimental aircraft. Yet those planes are helping to pave the way for net-zero carbon aviation by 2050, the goal set by many government and environmental groups. But hydrogen isn’t without controversy: For now, it’s expensive, not always green, and some say dangerous.